Old World Herbs for the Kitchen Garden
by: Lucy Apthorp Leske
“Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there -
she once was a true love of mine.”
Forty years ago, Simon and Garfunkel released their album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme,” which included the song “Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” a classic English love song whose lyrics date to the Middle Ages.
The four herbs highlighted in the song symbolize a complex love riddle compiled by a spurned lover. The “one who lives there” was supposed to figure it out. In the days of Scarborough Faire, herbs were prized primarily for medicinal value as well as their ability to ward off foul odors and dye cloth. Many herbs were assigned multiple meanings related to the various ills or problems they were supposed to cure. The love riddle in this case was designed to woo the lady back through the hidden meanings of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Today, herbs are hot, but not because of their meaning. No cook worth his salt would dream up a menu without fresh herbs playing a prominent role, no matter whether the cuisine is old-fashioned barbecue or contemporary Thai. Herbs are big business, too. Family farms and commercial growers set aside significant acreage for raising fresh herbs.