Some of the common herbs in India

This article describes some of the herbs commonly found in the trees and forests of India and even many times in your garden. Also read about how they are useful in our day to day life.

The word herb is generally used to mean those plants and their leaves which are cooked with or added to food in order to improve its flavour. Lamb is served with a sauce of mint leaves, fish is often eaten with parsley sauce and sage is often made into stuffing, sometimes with onion, and eaten with various kinds of meat. Mint, parsley and sage are three common garden herbs with delicate, slightly sharp flavours which help to take away the effect of the richness of the foods with which they are served.

Two other common flavouring herbs are tarragon and thyme, which, like mint, give out a sweet-smelling oil when cooked or crushed. Sorrel and chives are used mainly in salads, and chervil in soups and salads.

It is a good idea to set aside part of the garden for herbs. The piece of ground chosen should have good light soil and be in a position to get sunlight. The soil should be dug thouroughly and divided off with stones sunk into the ground, in order to prevent the quick-growing herbs such as mint for overcrowding the others.

Only a few plants of each kind are required. Some, such as mint, rosemary, sage, tarragon and chives, are best grown from roots and should be planted in April. Parsley, chervil and sweet marjoram are usually grown from seed. Herbs are best used fresh but they may be collected in autumn and dried for winter. They should be cut a week or so before flowering and laid out in a dry shady placeto dry. Although they can be stored in wide-mouthed bottles or in paper bags they must always be kept dry, and in order to keep the colour it is better to dry the herbs quickly, say in a cool oven. As soon as they are crisp they can be made into a powder.

Herbs have been gathered for medicine since ancient times, and in many parts of the world they are still used to cure diseases. Rue, camoumile and tansy are all used in medicine. Herbals, which are books describing herbs, often with illustrations, have many interesting things to say about herbs, but much of their information is unreliable.

To the botanist, herbs are all those plants with stems that die during the winter. They include groundsel and charlock, which are annuals, and lupins and Machaelmas daisies which are perennials but whose stems die down every autumn after flowering. Herbs have soft green stems, in contrast to the woody stems of shrubs and trees.

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