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36 Popular Culinary Herbs from 1912

Updated on July 27, 2016
A bundle of rosemary - photo taken by Evan-Amos as a part of Vanamo Media, which creates public domain works for educational purposes.
A bundle of rosemary - photo taken by Evan-Amos as a part of Vanamo Media, which creates public domain works for educational purposes. | Source

Copyright 2014

Herbs have been used for centuries for medicinal and culinary purposes. In 1912, as industrialized food was starting to have a strong presence in the U.S., a book called "Culinary Herbs " by M. G. Kains came out in an effort to try to renew interest in growing and cooking with flavorful herbs. The book covered the cultivation, harvest and use of culinary herbs.

The preface of the book called for a renewed interest in using culinary herbs in an era of "ready-made" foods.

"Probably no culinary plants have during the last 50 years have been so neglected. Especially during the 'ready-to-serve' food era." M. G. Kains

One can only imagine what M. G. Kains would think today of our "ready-made" world of processed and prepackaged food!

This 1912 book describes the most common and easy to cultivate culinary herbs of that era. Many of these are still easy to find, at least in dried form, at the grocery and are still used today.

However, I did find that there were several common herbs used back then that I have not heard of before. I'm anxious to delve into this a bit more and learn about some of these herbs.

Below I've shared the list of herbs that Kains found easy to cultivate and cook with. Check out the list and and see if you recognize them all.

For those that use herbs...

Have you heard of ALL the herbs listed here?

See results

Culinary Herbs of 1912

As M.G. Kains so eloquently put it in his book:

“In these days of jaded appetites, condiments and canned goods, how fondly we turn from the dreary monotony of the 'dainty' menu to the memory of the satisfying dishes of our mothers! What made us, like Oliver Twist, ask for more? Were those flavors real, or was it association and natural, youthful hunger that enticed us ? Can we ever forget them; or, what is more practical, can we again realize them? We may find the secret and the answer in mother's garden. Let's peep in…”

  • Angelica
  • Anise
  • Balm
  • Basil
  • Borage
  • Caraway
  • Catnip
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Clary
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Finocchio
  • Fennel Flower
  • Hoarhound
  • Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Lovage
  • Marigold
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Sage
  • Samphire
  • Savory, Summer
  • Savory, Winter
  • Southernwood
  • Tansy
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

Kains argued at the time (and I'm sure many readers today would still agree):

"To really learn to value herbs at their true worth one should grow them."

Cooking with fresh herbs from the garden brings a whole new taste and sense of appreciation to a dish!

A quote to stand the test of time

“The soup may be made of the most wholesome, nutritious and even
costly materials; the fish may be boiled or baked to perfection; the joint of the roast and the salad may be otherwise faultless, but if they lack flavor they will
surely fail in their mission, and none of the neighbors will plot to steal the cook,
as they otherwise might did she merit the reputation that she otherwise might,
by using culinary herbs.”

M.G. Kains, 1912

Uses of Culinary Herbs

Here are some suggestions Kains gave the book for how to use some of the herbs to dress up existing common foods of the that era:

Sandwiches made with lettuce or nasturtium* and mayonnaise.

It was suggested that you can make them quite a different thing by adding minced chives, tarragon, or thyme to the mayonnaise.

*Nasturtium is an edible flower that was commonly back then (and is still used today).

Crackers and Cheese

"Work any of these herbs into cream cheese with a silver knife..." (Kains was quite specific on the type of knife to use!) ... or, he suggested any two of them that compliment each other and to serve it with toasted crackers. I'm sure crackers, back then, were often handcrafted by the lady of the house.

He also suggests toasting crackers with common cheese and then grating sage and thyme over the melted cheese. Keep in mind back then, toasting was done the old fashioned way - with real fire!

More from M.G. Kains

“Whether this 'dinner of herbs' appeals to the reader or not. I venture to say that no who has ever stuffed a Thanksgiving turkey, a Christmas goose or ducks or chickens with homegrown, home prepared herbs, either fresh or dried, will ever after be willing to buy the paper packages or tin cans of semi-inodorous, prehistoric dust which masquerades equally well as 'fresh' sage, summer savory, thyme or something else, the only apparent difference being the label.”

M.G. Kains, 1912

My culinary adventure continues...

Lately, I have been trying to branch out and try new dishes, new whole foods, and new herbs. I must say that after finding this century-old book, I'm now more curious about some of the herbs in the list that I've not heard of (e.g, "Pennyroyal")

I am looking forward to trying to find some of them here locally, giving them a try, and writing more on these soon!

Updates on the unknown herbs...

Last updated: 8-30-12

Thanks to "OldRoses" here on hubpages for letting us know via the comment section below that PennyRoyal is no longer used as a culinary herb to do some toxicity issues.

In addition, I've read up on three of the seven I was not familiar with and provided more information here: Three Rare and Ancient Herbs: Clary, Angelica, and Rue


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    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      @Dolores Monet - I, too, enjoy looking at old cook books. I have one that belonged to my great-grandmother and some hand-written recipes from my great-great-grandmother. What is amazing to think about is that back then they cooked with fire and so obvioulsy no oven temperature to go by and the length of cooking could vary!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I love looking at old cookbooks. It's amazing how tastes have changed and how the spices and herbs that were popular then, are mostly unheard of now! And the idea that they used pennyroyal, but it was toxic!

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      @plinka - thanks for stopping by, it's nice to know there are other herb lovers here on hubpages!

    • plinka profile image


      6 years ago from Budapest, Hungary

      I love your hubs on herbs and I also love herbs. Herbs can convert simple dishes to special ones. By addig them to meals, you can also heal several illneses.

      Informative and interesting hub! Voted up and more.

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      @carol777 - I'm glad you found this useful. You'll have to let us know when you try a new one and let us know how it went!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      I saved this one out for my bookmark file which is growing. Great information and being a cook (well at least at home) I love learning about herbs and spices. and trying new things.

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      @OldRoses - thanks so much for that warning! That probably explains why it's not used as a culinary herb here anymore!

      For all - I've created a second article that covers three of the seven that I had not heard of. I'll add a link into the text above shortly.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 

      6 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      I love heavily herbed dishes, but am careful to use a lot less when cooking for others.

      I haven't heard of finocchio, hoarhound and samphire, even though I love collecting and using herbs! Off to find out what they are and how to use them.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 

      6 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Great hub! One of the things I love about herbs is the history behind them.

      WARNING!! Do not ingest penneyroyal. It is poisonous. Yes, you will see recommendations for teas and such but what you won't see are the people who were sickened and died. Penneyroyal can be safely rubbed on your skin as an insect repellant.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      6 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Thanks for sharing this informative and interesting hub. I love cooking with both herbs and spices. Will look into some of the one's I don't know. Passing this on.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 

      6 years ago

      If anyone answers your poll with yes.. I will officially be impressed! Hmm... I'll have to get oldroses to read this!

      Very interesting! What chefsref mentioned about the oregano in pizza sauce is the biggest food pet peeve I have!!

      Love the hub, voted up!

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      @chefsref - I was hoping you would find this article add some great culinary insight - thank-you!! These are some great tips you have provided!

      I know when I teach healthy cooking and encourage the use of herbs for flavor most are not certain how to use them.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 

      6 years ago from Citra Florida

      Hey Kris

      Excellent as always. One thing that many people fail to understand is how to use herbs and spices for flavoring. There are many obvious exceptions, especially in ethnic recipes but the focus should be to marry flavors. It is easy to use too much. If you have ever had a pizza sauce where the oregano jumps out or a sage dressing where the sage overwhelms the dish you know what not to do. A well seasoned dish should have a bit of subtlety where you have to concentrate on the flavor not be knocked down by it. Try adding a little ground fennel seed to spaghetti sauce for a change, you'll see why they add it to sausage.

      You can flavor foods inadvertently with fresh herbs. One time at work I had a batch of whipped butter take a strange flavor. I had trouble figuring out what happened to it until I noticed we had fresh basil stored in the fridge, the butter absorbed the flavor.

      You did list some herbs that I'm not familiar with, guess I need to do some homework.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      6 years ago from California Gold Country

      Wow!~ I'm going to have to go back and study this more closely.

      We have an abundance of rosemary around here, but I don't use it much. I have been gradually using more herbs.

      Parsley is always a favorite-- especially since a small sprig equals a serving of most vegetables.


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