Herbs: An Introduction


The references for this series of articles is the author’s personal knowledge and experience and the Internet. This article may be freely copied and used on other web sites only if it is copied complete with all links and text, including this header, intact and unchanged except for minor improvements such as misspellings and typos.

I grew up as a kid during WWII, and we always planted a “Victory Garden” in the back yard, behind the Rose hedge. It was a goodly sized plot of ground, probably 30 feet by 40 feet, and over the years I became intimately acquainted with every spade full of dirt there.

Why? Well, because it was my job every spring from the time I was old enough to step on a shovel and plunge it into the ground to spade up that garden plot and ready it for planting. And I had to go into the chicken coop and get the chicken manure and spread it on the ground and spade it in, also. I started doing this by about 1941, when I was 5.

And over by the house there grew this veritable jungle of weeds. But, when you broke off a leaf and chewed it up it tasted pretty good. It was mint. Mint grows wild, in one form or another, pretty much everywhere. You may have some growing wild in your back yard right now? Some people call this an herb. I simply call it “food”. It’s something we learned to eat and enjoy. And I learned how, when walking through the woods, to identify licorice root – a fern, usually growing on old dead trees – and enjoy chewing on it. Also probably classified as an herb, but I simply called it a “food”.

Every year Mom did the canning. She would can tomatoes out of the garden, carrots and peas out of the garden. And she would can fruit for the winter, some as whole fruit (peaches and pears – apples went into applesauce and apple jelly). She canned mostly in quart jars for the foods, and in pint jars for jams and jellies. Apple jelly was special, though, canned in half-pint jars and it always had a leaf from the wild mint in the back yard on top of the jelly in every jar. And sometimes, as a special treat, it might contain a piece of licorice root for flavor.

There was more. We had parsley, sage, sheep sorrel, rhubarb and a few others growing pretty well cultivated in their own corner off the garden. Things Mom used to cook with, sprinkle a little here and there on the meat or vegetables. I guess you might call them herbs. We just called them “seasonings” or “food”.


When I grew up and went off in the world to seek my fortune, such as it was, I ran across more exotic foods in different countries I visited. Its been so long I’ve forgotten most of them, but I remember from Panama stopping in at a little “lunch counter buffet” out in the wilds, a place where only the locals usually stopped. I learned that Yucca, a flowering plant native to the American southwest and most of Central America, in various types, is edible. At least the root – of some varieties – is edible. And I learned that deep fried Yucca root is not only tastier than French fries, it’s a whole lot better for you, too.

Some people may consider Yucca an herb, others a flower, and others a food. I’m with both the flower and food groups. There are many different varieties of Yucca and several different varieties of Yucca Flowers. Not all Yucca is edible, but some of them are. And they provide nutritional values for us that we can’t get from other food sources.

What I’m going to be doing in this series of articles is examining some of these alternate food sources, some legitimately labeled herbs and some just foods, and explaining just what their essential food values are, how we use them as “food supplements”, and why we should use them thusly.

My references for this series of articles on alternative and herbally based foods are personal experience plus resources available through your local herbalist, at your local library, and on the internet.

Let me close this introductory article with a statement I have made at least a couple of times in other health-related articles of recent vintage. We are all different, so what works one way for me may work differently for you or may not work at all for you. The strong probability, if its herbs or other alternative foods, is that it won’t hurt you, either, so keep on trying until you find that combination of everything that does work for you. Then stick to it – and share your findings with the rest of us. That’s where knowledge comes from.

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

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