Nationalistic Herbs

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In the giving thanks thread (http://www.cheftalk.com/forum/thread/63097/giving-thanks) I made reference to a situation with oregano. Several have PMed me for details. I won't go into exactly what happened, except to say that a participant on another site maintained that oregano is an Italo/American thing, that oregano is never used in real Italian food; and, by extension, is not really a part of Mediterannian cuisine.

Putting aside the sheer nonsense of such a statement, I got to be thinking about herbs and national identities. While fresh herbs are an integral part of most cuisines, seems to me there are particular herbs we identify with certain cuisines. I thought it might be fun to see what pairings we can come up with. I'm not looking for a "what herbs are found in X cuisine," lists, so much as "What one herb do you most associate with X." In other words, if you took that one herb away, would the cuisine in question be recognizable as such?

Off the top of my head I've come up with:

Italy: Basil.

Greece: Oregano.

Thailand: Lemon grass.

Mexico: Cilantro.

Israel: Hyssop (i.e., za'taar).

United States: Parsley.

I thought France would be easy. Initially I told myself tarragon. But then thought, no, it's lavender, or maybe marjoram, or.....well, just proves, again, that I don't know all that much about French food.

Anyone else got others? Or care to dispute my choices?
 
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I thought France would be easy. Initially I told myself tarragon. But then thought, no, it's lavender, or maybe marjoram, or.....well, just proves, again, that I don't know all that much about French food.
I believe the "problem" with France is that we use tons of different herbs, really, so pinning down a single one to associate with French cuisine would be tough. But at the top of my head, I would say that:

Curly Parsley

Thyme

Chives

Bay leaves

... would be the few ones I would put at the top of the list. But we use many, many more, depending on your region. For example, in my region, monks make a liquor called Chartreuse with 130 different herbs. Or, when I visit my mum or my sister, they always pick up a bunch of wild herbs, look them up in books and use them in their cooking. Usually stuff I have never even heard of before.

I'm not sure why Tarragon is so heavily associated with French cuisine. Personally I've never seen it used in France, I discovered it in the U.S. I asked my wife, and she's never seen it used in her family either. What we do see everywhere in France is Tarragon-mustard. Lavender is something we put in little sachets to perfume closets, but not in food. I believe that's a fine-dining-trendy-fashion-hip thing, never seen it used in cooking myself either except once in a fancy restaurant here in the U.S. Marjoram we use, Savory too, Chervil, etc... but not anywhere close to the same amount/frequency as the four I listed above.
 
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In the UK we use lots of sage/thyme/rosemary/savory.  Curly leafed parsley used to be more favoured than the French stuff - but nowadays is less popular (IMO)
 
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It's hard to pin down any particular herb for Australia.  But, to input something, I have the following:

Chinese:  Garlic

Thai: Lemongrass

Korea: Kimchee (sp?) - not exactly sure if thhis is a herb as such, but is very widely used

Spain: Paprika

England/G.B.: Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme ( I feel a song coming on here /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif)
 
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Curly leafed parsley used to be more favoured than the French stuff
Ishbel, I wonder if you meant "than the Italian stuff" maybe? Curly parsley is the French stuff. But I agree with you that the Italian (aka flat) parsley is much more popular. They have different flavors, the flat one is more subtle.
 
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Scandanavia - Dill - Can't imagine gravadlax without it.

India - Cilantro (coriander) and Methi (the herb grown from fenugreek) How could you finish a dish without it, or add that important, uniquely aromatic flavour

Curry leaves too in south Indian dishes would be blander without them fried with spices to temper the dish at the end of the cooking

Thailand- Thai basil Tom yum soup and so much else needs a sprig of it and coriander to sprinkle in as you eat it. Our local Thai restaurant couldnt get any when the ash cloud disrupted flights this year. Flavour was also dramatically disrupted.

Middle east,Turkey, Lebanon etc (sorry to generalise) - Mint! Food would neverbe the same again
 
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Sunshine, I wouldn't consider Kimchee to be an herb. It's a finished dish, with many ingredients including veggies, herbs, and spices. To count it, we'd have to consider all the pickles and relishes of the world.

Personally, I think of paprika as a spice, rather than an herb. But that's just me. I
 
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Brazil: lemongrass and cilantro are the two that come to mind

I hope you don't mind me breaking the rules a bit, but in Louisiana I would say it would be green onions and thyme.
 
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I'm not sure why Tarragon is so heavily associated with French cuisine.

Well, right off the top of my head, Sauce Bernaise comes to mind. Isn't that a classic French preparation?
 
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I'm not sure why Tarragon is so heavily associated with French cuisine.

Well, right off the top of my head, Sauce Bernaise comes to mind. Isn't that a classic French preparation?
Yes it is. Do you think that is the reason why people often associate Tarragon with French cuisine? Odd. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/confused.gif
 
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Sunshine, I wouldn't consider Kimchee to be an herb. It's a finished dish, with many ingredients including veggies, herbs, and spices. To count it, we'd have to consider all the pickles and relishes of the world.

Personally, I think of paprika as a spice, rather than an herb. But that's just me. I
Fair comment on the Kimchee - it just sprang to mind as such a major ingredient as opposed to an herb..  I like this thread to see different people's perspectives on what is the prime herb which represents a country/area.

True, paprika is not an herb, but it's just so characteristic in the cuisine my fingers typed it before I could think about it :)

Anyone got one for Japan?
 
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That could be it exactly, French Fries.

Like I say, I don't know all that much about French food. Just went through Jean-Pierre Challet's One Pot French, which is the only French cookbook I have handy. Turns out tarragon is used surprisingly little. Only three of his dishes untilize it at all.

Based on his recipes, however, I would have to say the most-used herb in French cooking actually is thyme. Chervil is another popular one, even more so than parsley.

The French section of International Cuisine doesn't include tarragon in any of the recipes. But seems to support the notion that thyme is the most used herb.

Next I turned to Joanne Weir's From Tapas to Meze, which deals only with southern France. Again, not one use of tarragon. Thyme seems to remain #1, with parsley running it a close second. Many of her recipes call for savory as well, far more than I would have imagined.

If we stretch a point, and include aromatics as herbs, as Tyler did with Louisiana cooking, then shallots would be, hands-down, France's most popular herb.

Kind of ironic that so many of us associate tarragon with French cooking when, in fact, it's as you say: tarragon is hardly used at all. Go figure!
 
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If we stretch a point, and include aromatics as herbs, as Tyler did with Louisiana cooking, then shallots would be, hands-down, France's most popular herb.
I agree that the bulb of green onions, scallions, shallots, etc. wouldn't be considered an herb, but when I refer to green onions, I am only referring to green onion tops. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the tops would be considered an herb just like chives, right?

 
 
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Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer  

Based on his recipes, however, I would have to say the most-used herb in French cooking actually is thyme. Chervil is another popular one, even more so than parsley.

The French section of International Cuisine doesn't include tarragon in any of the recipes. But seems to support the notion that thyme is the most used herb.

Next I turned to Joanne Weir's From Tapas to Meze, which deals only with southern France. Again, not one use of tarragon. Thyme seems to remain #1, with parsley running it a close second. Many of her recipes call for savory as well, far more than I would have imagined.

If we stretch a point, and include aromatics as herbs, as Tyler did with Louisiana cooking, then shallots would be, hands-down, France's most popular herb.

Kind of ironic that so many of us associate tarragon with French cooking when, in fact, it's as you say: tarragon is hardly used at all. Go figure!
Thyme and parsley for sure. Chervil I wouldn't rank anywhere near as high, in fact, we never had it when I grew up. I asked my wife which herbs she thinks represent French cooking and she said "Herbes de Provence" right away. I told her I didn't think that counted as an herb, being a mix of herbs, and she replied "Thyme, curly parsley" right away. Then after a bit of thought, "chives". She wasn't so sure about the bay leaves.

Shallots is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with. I always have them in my pantry. I grew up with them.
 
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When I was in Korea cilantro was referred to as 'Chinese parsley', and thus I relate to Chinese cooking more than any other.

I don't know if it is the most popular herb but I've never used chervil in any other cuisines than French. So that gets my vote.

Marijuana is a popular "medicinal" herb in many countries, but we're talking about culinary point of view, aren't we? /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif   It's very tough to pick just one herb for each country.

I agree that green onion can be counted as an herb for it's frequent use as an herb.
 
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When I was in Korea cilantro was referred to as 'Chinese parsley'.
Interesting. In France some call cilantro "Arabic parsley". It's also used a lot in Northern Africa, Mexico, East Asia...
Originally Posted by byrdie  

I don't know if it is the most popular herb but I've never used chervil in any other cuisines than French.
You know, I think for both Chervil and Tarragon, they are probably known as typically French because that's the one of the only cuisines where they're used? 
 
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Italy might as well be a collection of different countries as far as cuisine goes, but i'd say

parsley

rosemary (on certain foods - potatoes, white pizza, roasts)

basil

origano (certain regions, i think mainly southern)

sage (tuscany for sure, maybe others)

Notable for its total absence, dill. 

why, i don;t know.  It's used from scandinavia to greece, but seems to skip over italy

In france, Isn;t lavender just used in provence?  in some mixtures of provencal herbs?

And also tarragon, may that not be also a regionally used herb? 
 
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Although I do agree that oregano is widely accepted as the greek herb there are others that are just as dominant.  Mint, dill, bay, and parsley especially.  There are some herbs that we hardly use at all like rosemary, sage, marjoram, tarragon and I'm not sure why considering that you can find them growing like weeds everywhere you look.  I have learned to incorporate these in my cooking though so some of us are learning.

I think traditions have their place.  But when they limit your ability to expand your food preparations then traditions just get in the way.  I don't like being told by other greeks that "we don put rozmary in the lamp!" because guess what, I'm putting it in there anyway and if that makes it a non-greek dish then so be it.  Herbs should not be a religion!  They're super super healthy and flavorful and there's room for them all.

Except cilantro which is evil.
 
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