Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme Herbs For Cooking

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme herbs in their leaves form

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are often mentioned together. They all offer quite a few medicinal remedy purposes. And of course, their addition to the aromatic flavorings in your cooking will heighten the taste in your fresh-based recipes.


Parsley—flat or curly leaf—can be used as a culinary herb, food garnish, or part of a medicinal remedy.

Parsley bunch wrapped in twine

Medicinal Remedies Tips

Parsley is rich in Vitamin A and C and is also shown to clear toxins from the body as well as reduce inflammation. Parsley has three times the amount of Vitamin C than oranges do.

Medicinal remedies are still used today such as the use of parsley for kidney stones, as a diuretic, for rheumatoid arthritis, as a stimulant, for menstrual regulation, to settle the stomach, and as an appetite stimulant.

Culinary Uses

Parsley can be added to anything and is used often to color pestos but it is very frequently used as a garnish.

In the kitchen, parsley can be used fresh in salads, sauces, and soups. Add to stews, stuffing, vegetable dishes, eggs (or vegan Just Egg), tabbouleh, dips, biscuits, omelets, rice, and pasta dishes. Chop it finely, mash into butter and serve with bread, or melt it into casseroles, scrambled eggs, or pasta.

Parsley has a pleasant flavor and is often used as a breath freshener particularly after eating raw garlic and onions.

The storing of fresh parsley it is simple. Just wrap it a damp paper towel and place it in a baggie to store in the fridge. Or try this method: to store fresh parsley in the fridge, place the stems in a glass jar of cold water. It will stay fresh for several days.

Growing Tips

Parsley is a hardy biennial or short-lived perennial and grows 10 to 12 inches tall. It can be grown indoors or out. Grow parsley from seed or you can purchase started plants at the garden centers. You can start the plants in the house prior to planting in the garden. Or you can seed it straight into the location where you want it to grow. If growing parsley in pots, plant in a deep pot to accommodate the long taproot.

Parsley can be brought indoors at the end of the growing season the same as other herbs. When bringing indoors, pot up in fresh potting soil, and check for insects. If there is an infestation, spray with a soap and water spray.

Parsley requires at least 5 hours of sunlight if grown indoors. If you are growing it on a windowsill, parsley should be turned regularly to ensure that all sides receive sunlight. Parsley grows well under fluorescents lights during the winter. Hang the lights 6 inches from the plants and leave on for 14 hours a day.

Here are the cultivation requirements: fairly rich, moist soil, full sun or partial shade, water well during dry periods. In the second year, yellowish-white flowers are produced. Parsley can be treated as an annual for cooking purposes, as the first year's leaves are superior to the later crops. Parsley will self-sow so you can leave it where it is. Curly parsley makes a gorgeous edging along garden beds and is attractive planted with flowers and in container gardens.

In the garden, parsley can be planted near asparagus, corn, and tomatoes.


Sage is a relative to the mint family. It is common for sage to be ground, whole or rubbed but is generally in more of a coarse grain.

The herb sage in a sprig form on a white background

Culinary Uses

Sage is used frequently for flavoring things such as salads, pickles, cheese, and stuffing.

Sage is one of the main herbs in stuffing. Sage is very strong and should be used sparingly as a little goes a long way. Sage develops its full flavor the longer it cooks and withstands lengthy cooking times.

Sage has a musky smoky flavor and works very nicely for cutting down some of the richness in many foods. It also goes great with almost any vegetable too.

Growing Tips

If you grow your own sage you will find that all you have to do is snip off the tops of the plant with scissors and add it right to your favorite recipe. Sage is still at its best when dried but if you prefer just simply place the fresh sage leaves in a baggie in the freezer and pull them out as required.

Medicinal Remedies Tips

Sage was used regularly to cure snake bites and was also used to invigorate the body and cleanse the mind. In the middle ages it was quite common for people to make a sage tea and drink it for ailments such as colds, fever, liver trouble, and epilepsy.

Although there is nothing to solidify these claims it is also said that a chewed sage leaf applied to a sting or an insect bite will reduce the sting and bring down the swelling. Sage tea has been said to soothe a sore throat. Further it has been known to help with itching skin if it is added to hot bath water. Today, it is mainly the Native Americans who still rely on the herbal powers of sage.

Sage never loses its fragrance even after being dried out so it is often added to potpourri and is also added to many soaps and perfumes. It has been used in insect repellents and has antibacterial properties which have helped it become a preservative.


Rosemary is a relative to the mint family, and is an aromatic herb indigenous to the Mediterranean area. It has has needlelike leaves and delicate light blue flowers. Mature plants can live for over 30 years.

The herb rosemary in a few sprigs on a gray backgound

Culinary Uses

Uses in the kitchen include tomato dishes, stews, soups, and vegetable dishes. It can be finely chopped in custards, egg dishes (or vegan Just Egg), pickles, jellies, jams, cakes, cookies, salads. It is an essential ingredient in herb breads and biscuits, including focaccia, the classic Italian bread. Rosemary can be added to the cooking water to enliven cauliflower, potatoes, green beans, and peas. Rosemary has a strong flavor so use sparingly. Leaves, stems, and flowers are all edible. To release the flavor of dried leaves, crush them just before using.

Rosemary should be harvested just as you are going to use it because it loses its flavor once dried.

Rosemary can be kept in the fridge for a few days either in plastic bags or with the stems immersed in water. The leaves can be dried by hanging fresh sprigs in a warm, dry place. Strip off leaves before storing.

Medicinal Remedies Tips

Rosemary is used in potpourris, air fresheners, shampoos, and cosmetics. There has also been scientific evidence that rosemary works very well as a memory stimulant. Rosemary has shown a strong relationship in relaxing muscles, and to soothe stomach upset as well as menstrual cramps.

The rosemary dried flowers and/or leaves are often combined with spearmint to make an aromatic tea said to be useful for calming the nerves and soothing headaches, and as an antiseptic. Making a tea from rosemary is simple; just pour boiling water over the leaves and steep for 10-15 minutes. A little sugar can be added. A few sprigs can be added to oils and vinegars to flavor the products.

When used cosmetically it can lighten and tone human hair and when mixed with equal parts of shampoo it has been known to strengthen hair too. It also makes for a nice additive in hot bath water.

Growing Tips

Rosemary grows best in full sun but will tolerate semi-shade. It grows best in light, well-drained soil. Let rosemary become moderately dry between waterings, as root rot can be a problem in soggy soils. Mist the leaves every second week. Rosemary grows 3 to 6 feet tall outdoors. Indoors, rosemary benefits by harvesting tip cuttings that will keep the plant fuller and bushier. Rosemary’s leaves are dark green on top with silvery undersides.

Rosemary is slow to germinate and grow from seed so it is best to buy plants or propagate rosemary from stem cuttings. If you are growing this herb indoors, rosemary thrives when moved outdoors for the summer.

Leave rosemary in pots in the garden as it seems to be able to adjust to moving back in-doors more successfully. Move back indoors before the first frost, check for insects, and if there is an infestation, spray with a soap and water spray.

Rosemary requires at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. If you are growing rosemary on a windowsill, turn regularly to ensure every side receives light. If you are growing rosemary under lights, hang fluorescent lights 6 inches above the plants and leave on for 12 hours.

In the garden, rosemary deters cabbage moth, bean beetles, and carrot fly when planted near cabbage, beans, carrots, and sage.


Thyme is a very common household herb and is a member of the mint family. The plant is very aromatic and comes in many varieties. Garden thyme, fresh or dried, alone or combined with parsley and bay leaves adds a distinctive flavoring to stews, sauces, and stuffing.

Fresh picked thyme herb in a basket

It is a very decorative plant while it is growing. It is very easy to grow as well but be prepared because bees just love thyme. Oddly enough as much as honey bees love to suck the nectar from the thyme plant is as much as other insects loathe it. Some people have been known to make a mist spray of thyme and water and use it as a bug repellent.

Culinary Uses

Various forms of thyme are available year round but many people prefer to grow their own. Nothing beats the smell and taste of fresh thyme as long as you know to pick it just as the flowers appear.

In the kitchen dried thyme is used, as it is preferred for cooking.

This herb enhances the flavor of tomato sauces, casseroles, soup, spaghetti sauce, eggs (or vegan Just Egg), potatoes, green vegetables, chowders, breads, plain rice, and tea.

Thyme is especially good in recipes that call for long, slow cooking as it is one of the few herbs that does not lose flavor in cooking. Sprigs can be placed in the water of steamed or boiled vegetables, or used to make thyme-scented vinegar or oil.

Fresh leaves and flowers can be used in tossed green salads, and use the leaves, fresh or dried, for butter and cooking oil. Strip the leaves from stems when using fresh. Chopped fresh leaves are much more pungent than dried so use sparingly if substituting for dried in a recipe.

Thyme can be preserved by freezing or drying. To dry, lay the stems of thyme flat or hang them in bunches in a shady, dry location. Strip the dry leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container. To freeze, lie on a cookie pan, freeze, store in airtight freezer bags, and use as required.

Once fresh thyme is harvested it should be stored in either a plastic bag in the crisper or stood straight up in a glass of water on the shelf in the refrigerator for easy access. Thyme does not have a very long shelf life, you will be lucky if it lasts a week.

You can crumble it into a powdery form and store it in a sealed dark container for no more than six months. Eliminate the stems as they have a tendency to have a woody taste to them.

Medicinal Remedies Tips

Thyme has medicinal purposes as well as an antiseptic, an expectorant, and deodorant properties. Thyme has been known to aid in digestion, especially with fatty foods. Herbal medicine has used thyme for various things such as extracts, teas, compresses, for baths, and for gargles. Thyme might strengthen the immune system.

Distilled thyme oils have been used for the commercial use of antiseptics, toothpaste, mouthwash, gargle, hair conditioner, dandruff shampoo, potpourri, and insect repellant. It is also used in the production of certain expectorants that are prescribed for whooping cough and bronchitis.

Thyme has also been used in part as an aphrodisiac and in aromatherapy oils as well.

Growing Tips

Thyme can be grown indoors or out. It is a shrubby perennial with small, oval, narrow, grey-green leaves, long, woody, branched stems, and sturdy roots. This plant blooms in mid-summer and has lavender-pink flowers that occur in small clusters. The flowers attract bees and the honey produced is highly valued. The leaves are very aromatic. Leaves, stems, and flowers may all be eaten.

Garden thyme grows 6 to 20 inches tall, prefers light, well-drained soil, and full sun. Allow soil to dry between waterings, as this plant is susceptible to root rot and will not survive long in heavy wet soils. Thyme can be propagated by stem cuttings, seeds, and layering.

Pot outdoor plants for bringing indoors in the fall. Check for insects and spray with a soap and water spray if required. Indoor plants require at least 5 hours of strong sunlight a day. If placed on a windowsill, turn plants frequently to ensure all sides receive equal exposure to the light. If growing under fluorescents, hang lights 6 inches above the plants and leave on for 14 hours a day.

In the garden, plant thyme anywhere as it deters cabbageworm and accents the aromatic qualities of other plants and herbs.

Try growing these four herbs for your recipes, as well as for medicinal remedies.

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