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The Top 5 Soup Herbs

gourmet soup guide top 5 herbs

#1: Parsley

At the top of the list is parsley as it’s such an excellent garnish for all your soups. And don’t forget flat-leaf parsley (Italian parsley) which will not only serve as a garnish but it will also add loads of flavour and nutrition, especially when used with Lovage in soup stocks.

# 2: Chives

Chives is a close second because it’s also an excellent garnish and because it adds a delicate oniony aroma to almost any soup. Always add just before serving.

#3: Lovage

Lovage gives more depth and flavour to the stock of all soups. It is especially good when combined with flat-leaf parsley. Use the stems as well as the leaves for better flavour.

#4 – 5: Winter Savory and Thyme

Winter Savory and thyme are good soup all rounders which can be used in a wide variety of soups. And they both make nice additions to bouquets garnis. Combine them with parsley, chives and lovage to liven up your existing soup recipes.

#6 – 10: Basil, Bay leaf, Celery, Cloves and Marjoram

These are all close contenders for the top 5 position because they are so versatile and because they all work so well with each other. If you are serious about creating gourmet soups you’ll find them indispensable in your arsenal.

36 Popular Soups Herbs and Spices

Here’s a list of the 36 herbs and spices we recommend in this Gourmet Soup Guide. You will note that we use the classification system we developed for making your own bouquets garnis. If you need more information on this system and how it will improve your cooking read this article.

Fusion Soup Herbs:

Bay leaf, chervil, chives, marjoram, parsley.

Mild Soup Herbs:

Anise, basil, borage, dill, fennel, celery, coriander, salad burnet.

Robust Soup Herbs:

Garlic, ginger, hyssop, lemon balm, lovage, mint, oregano, savory, sorrel, tarragon, thyme.

Soup Flavourings and Spices:

Allspice, cardamom, cayenne, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin, juniper, mace, nutmeg, paprika, rosemary, sage, turmeric.

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Parsley’s Fascinating History

“If parsley flourishes… the missus is master” was an old saying.
(And now you know why my parsley flourishes.)

“To be an old sage, you have to eat lots of parsley” was another.

botanical drawing of Parsley
1913 Parsley illustration from Britton and Brown

Here are more snippets from parsley’s fascinating history.

  • It is widely believed that parsley originated in Sardinia, although an early writer says that parsley has the “curious botanic history that no one can tell what its native country is.”
  • The fact that the seeds are slow to germinate led to the belief that the seeds have to travel down to the ‘warm place’ and back before the plants will appear.
  • An old wives’ tale says that pouring boiling water over newly sow seeds will hasten the germination process – presumably to fool the seeds that they have already visited the ‘other place’.
  • For centuries Greek soldiers believed that any contact with parsley before battle signalled impending death. Because of this association with death, parsley was planted on Greek graves.
  • Ironically the above custom changed popular belief as it was then believed to have sprung from the blood of a Greek hero. So the Greek warriors then fed it to their chariot horses, and victorious athletes at the Isthmian games were crowned with parsley garlands.

Eish! And Asterix (from Gaul) thought the Romans were crazy.

Famous herbalists also praised the virtues of parsley.

  • Roman physician Galen prescribed it for “falling sickness” (epilepsy) and as a diuretic for water retention.
  • The Romans were also to first to munch parsley sprigs to freshen their breath.
  • Medieval German abbess/herbalist Hildegard of Bingen prescribed parsley compresses for arthritis and parsley boiled in wine for chest and heart pain.
  • Nicolas Culpepper (17th-century British herbalist) reiterated Galen and prescribed parsley to “provoke urine and women’s courses… to expel wind … to break the stone and ease the pains and torments thereof… and against cough.”
  • It’s listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia 1850 – 1926 and King’s American Dispensatory 1898.
  • Commission E, the expert panel that evaluates herbal medicines for the German counterpart of the FDA, approves parsley as a diuretic.

What about parsley tickles you the most?

Illustration from: Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 642.

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Parsley Tonic Boost Recipe

Parsley Juice Tonic Boost
This recipe with parsley is an excellent tonic and helps to protect you against a number of ailments.

Parsley is a real nutritional powerhouse and one of the easiest and quickest ways to really get its full nutritional benefit is to use it in herb drinks combined with other superfoods.

If you don’t have a juicer, a food processor or blender will do just as well. Dilute the tonic with a little water.

You can also take a shortcut and buy your veggie and fruit juices ready-made. Add your finely chopped parsley and process quickly in your food processor. Read the labels of the juices you purchase and make sure that they do not contain any sweeteners, preservatives, colourings or flavourings.

Add the parsley, sprigs and all. The sprigs contain heaps of fibre and nutrients.

Parsley Passion Recipe
This recipe supplies your daily requirement of vitamin C, more than three times the daily requirement of vitamin A, more than six times your requirement of vitamin K and heaps of folate to boot. And it's all in a natural form.
Serves: 1-2
  • ½ cup freshly chopped parsley
  • 3-5 large carrots or some pineapple
  • 2 apples
  • 2 cabbage or spinach leaves
  1. Dice all the ingredients into small cubes and process in your food processor or juicer.
  2. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 187 Fat: 1% Carbohydrates: 16% Sodium: 4% Fiber: 42% Protein: 3g Cholesterol: 0%

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Maître d’Hôtel Butter

In culinary circles flavoured butters are often referred to as compound butters or beurres composes. Various herbs, spices and other flavourings are added to salted or unsalted butter to add new notes and interesting dimensions to dishes.

Because salt overpowers the natural sweet flavour of butter, compound butter recipes generally call for “salt to taste” or no salt at all.

Once you get the hang of it, you can beat almost anything, from anchovies to watercress, into the butter.

herb butter
Maitre d’Hotel butter is wonderful addition to grilled dishes like steak and corn on the cob.

Maître d'Hôtel Butter
Maître d'hôtel butter has melted the hearts of many. As the butter melts, the food beneath is seductively imbued with last minute lavishness.

Serve this herb flavoured butter with grilled fish, fish fried in an egg-and-breadcrumb coating, grilled steak, corn on the cob, various steamed or boiled vegetables, and as a sandwich spread.
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • A pinch of salt and pepper to taste
  1. Let butter reach room temperature.
  2. Whip the butter to a thick creamy consistency (en pommade).
  3. Blend in other ingredients.
  4. Shape or form into molds.
  5. Chill for at least 1 hour to allow the flavours to develop.


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Cooking with Parsley

flat leaf parsley
Flat leaf parsley, also knows as Italian parsley, is preferred by chef’s.

Parsley is proof that fresh is the best when cooking with herbs. When using parsley in cooking I only use the fresh leaves. If there aren’t any, I’ll rather omit it from the recipe – dried parsley is a poor substitute. For medicinal purposes I use both the seeds and root of the parsley plant.

Fresh parsley has a clean, green aroma with a versatile fresh green taste. Slightly peppery.  At times a little like celery with an aftertaste of green apple. Dried parsley smells like old dried grass and tastes like dust.

Fresh leaves keep very well – for up to 10 days – in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It also freezes well – just chop finely and mix with a little water.  Pour into ice trays and freeze.

Parsley can be used in virtually any dish.  It is a well-mannered and polite herb that will compliment and not overpower other herbs.

Use it freely (about 1 tablespoon per serving), and unless the recipe states otherwise, add it about 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to develop.

Parsley is flavour pals with:
Sweet basil, bay leaves, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, garlic, lemon verbena, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, sorrel, tarragon, thyme, watercress and winter savoury.

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Your Best Parsley Sources

Bouquet Garni Herb Stand
You’ll find Bouquet Garni Herbs in selected garden centres in Gauteng.

Parsley ‘Moss Curled’, the curly parsley we all know so well, is readily available freshly cut in most supermarkets and green grocers.

Flat-leaf parsley (also know as Italian parsley) which is superior in flavour is not that readily available (in South Africa anyway) and you should sow and grow your own if you want to indulge in this herb.

If you are not into gardening and/or can’t find fresh cut parsley, you can purchase dried parsley from your local supermarket. But be warned, it is no better than dried grass and only fit to be used when the in-laws come to visit.

No store bought parsley will be able to beat the flavour and freshness of your own home grown parsley. So your best parsley source is growing your own.