36 Popular Culinary Herbs from 1912
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?
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…”
- Fennel Flower
- Savory, Summer
- Savory, Winter
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