ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Identify Common Herbs

Updated on January 20, 2020
Monica Pocelujko profile image

has a B.A. in English and 7 years of experience as a freelance writer working on the Internet.

If this is your first venture into the realm of cooking with herbs, you are probably unfamiliar with a lot of the herbs out there and their uses. This can make it difficult to searching for the right herbs to prepare your meals.

Herbs are delicious for cooking, wonderful in herbal teas and they look absolutely beautiful growing on your counter or windowsill. So here are some tips to help you identify the various herbs that are out there:


Although it has its origins in Asia, basil is an herb that's used heavily throughout the world. One of the best ways to identify basil by the shape of its leaves. Italian basil has smooth, bright green leaves with no serrations on the edges. The bottom, near the stem, is rounded and comes to a point at the tip. Another great way to identify basil is to smell it; you can't go wrong here as the leaves give off a distinctive scent when rubbed.


Parsley is a member of the carrot family. It is a very common herb which has two varieties, the curly leaf and flat-leaf (Italian). The leaves are the key to identifying your parsley.

Both types have vibrant green leaves and thin stems, with the serrated-edged flat-leaf growing in trios on the stem. They are rounded on the bottom and come to a point. One difference is that the smaller curly leaf parsley is serrated with less of a pointed end and more rounded in general. The leaves curl into themselves, causing dozens of tight bunches to grow on the top of a sprig. Also, take note of the height of the plant. Curly parsley stays small and grows thick. The other varieties are taller, with leggier stems.


This herb grows on a thick shrub and has sharp, needle-like evergreen leaves in a mint green color on long, thin wooden branches. The needles start about a quarter of the way up the branch and point upward. Small, light purple flowers cover the leaves during blooming season, which is in the spring and summer. The scent of rosemary is distinctive, so just hold up a sprig of the plant to your nose and inhale to be sure that it is rosemary.


Thyme belongs to the herbal mint family. It is well liked by herb growers for its scent, flavor, and ornamental appearance. Like rosemary, this herb grows on a thick shrub and has long wooden twig-like stems. The flowers are small round buds with ashy green leaves and pale pink or purple flowers. The unusual buds provide the best confirmation that this is indeed thyme.


This herb grows as a small shrub no taller than 2 feet in height and with a spread of 1-2 feet wide. It has purple or green woody, square stems covered in a fine down. The leaves have a leathery texture and are covered with soft hair. If you can't identify it by sight, rub the leaf between your thumb and index finger to get the scent on your skin. Sage has a lemony smell.


Oregano is an aromatic, intense herb. Most people think oregano is an Italian spice, but it actually comes from many different parts of the world, including Greece and Mexico.

The leaves of oregano are oval, slightly hairy and coarse. They are a deep, bright green color. It has pink or purple flowers and tends to sprawl out as it grows. Lastly, it has a robust, pungent and spicy taste.


Cilantro, also known as Chinese parsley, resembles Italian parsley. It is actually the leaves of a coriander plant. Since Italian parsley and cilantro are usually sold side-by-side at the market it is easy to confuse the two. The best way to tell them apart is by the scent. Parsley is not nearly as fragrant as cilantro. Cilantro has a unique flavor, which you can sometimes smell from several feet away. It's small leaves are dark green, grow in bunches, and the bottom half of the stem doesn't have any leaves.

© 2020 Monica Pocelujko


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)