Mother Earth Living

Our Personal Favorite Herbs

“Frankly, this exercise was like asking me to name a
favorite child, and that I couldn’t manage. As a realistic parent,
however, I do recognize and talk about their qualities, both good
and bad, their appearance, behavior, skills, and

–Eileen Tye

Ten years ago, when The Herb Companion was
young, I sent a survey out to our readers. “What are your three
favorite herbs?” I naively asked. If I had thought for even a
minute about how I would answer such a question myself, I would
have been prepared for the consternation it caused. “Pick only
three? You’ve got to be kidding.” As if I had asked which child
they wanted to keep and which would be sent to the bogeyman.

After the uproar had subsided, I sat down to tally the results
of this popularity contest and got a bit emotionally involved in
the process myself. Forty votes for basil, and then somebody would
remember to mention the humble chive. “Hurrah for chives!” I would
think to myself. Chives are the wallflower at the school dance in
my mind, the good girl whom everybody takes for granted, with her
wispy foliage and pale mauve party dress. (Her mother must have
picked that color.) A dozen more votes for that hussy basil, and
then one lone vote for sweet Annie. Tough, tomboy, reliable sweet
Annie, who would come back year after year in surprising places,
long after basil was just a spicy memory. In the final analysis,
there were more than a hundred votes for basil, and only three for
sweet woodruff! Such a deserving, perky, well-behaved herb! Oh, the

In all, about sixty different species were mentioned, with
basil, thyme, rosemary, and lavender the unquestioned queens of the
prom. Sage, mint, marjoram, oregano all received multiple votes as

So what’s changed in ten years? In the last issue, we asked you
to share your favorites with us once again. Actually, we asked for
just one favorite this time (how quickly we forget). The usual
hubbub, all my children, and so forth. But the results were
interesting and not what I would have predicted. To be precise:
Basil was outvoted by rosemary (by a nose, so to speak), and
lavender was a distant third. There were no other contenders. Thyme
was an afterthought, a second or third choice of a handful of
people, along with bee balm, fennel, mint, parsley, sage, and
tarragon. I wonder why.

Linda Ligon is founder and editorial director of The Herb
Companion. She is grateful to all the readers who shared their
passion for herbs and their quirky little stories. We wish we could
have printed every single one.

  • Published on Oct 1, 1998
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