Our Personal Favorite Herbs

| October/November 1998

“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 shortcomings.”
—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 injustice.

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 well.

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. 

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