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green plants that do not have any wood in their stems and that are valued for their medicinal value, flavor, and/or scent
Herbs grow in a variety of ways. Some, like dandelions, are low-growing; they never get far above the ground. Others, like sunflowers, grow to be several feet tall. Still others are vines. The stems of herbs have a great deal of water in them, which makes them firm and usually able to stand erect. Because their stems have so much water in them, they freeze when cold weather comes. But, although the stems may die down to the ground in the winter, some herbs are able to live on year after year. They may live on underground and send up new stems and leaves in the spring. Some of these herbs have underground stems that stay alive during cold weather; some have big roots; some have bulbs.
Herb plants grow well with little care. In fact, many herbs, such as dandelions, are considered weeds when not grown intentionally. And, because many herbs require little space in which to grow, they are easily grown in window boxes and windowsill gardens.
Some herbs are used in cooking, to flavor foods. Others give scents to perfumes. Still others are used for medicines. Some herbs, like balm and sage, are valued for their leaves. Saffron is picked for its buds and flowers. Fennel seeds are valuable in relishes and seasoning. Vanilla fruit pods yield vanilla flavoring. Several drugs are made from the juice of the opium poppy. Gentian roots serve as a flavoring in beverages and as a stomach medicine. Ginseng is valued for its aromatic roots, which are used as a cure for several ailments.
Although herbs have little food value, they make food tasty and more flavorful. Therefore, cooking with herbs has become a culinary art.
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This page was last updated on 08/05/2017.