Outdoors: Thanksgiving smells

Nov 25, 2020

"♪ Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme ♪" by Jill Clardy
Credit CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

"Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme."

When I say sage, I suppose most Americans think of sagebrush—the pungent plant of the West.

That sage is in the sunflower family, while, like rosemary and thyme, true sage is a mint.

Mints have been cherished for centuries because these plants give off volatile oils—which, after evaporating, have a pleasant odor.

In nature, this scent helps mints attract insect pollinators.

The same volatile oils can make food more palatable.

Since the Middle Ages, sage was valued for its medicinal properties. Herbalists thought it cured everything from soft gums to heartache.

According to royal physicians, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme were especially helpful in preventing flatulence.

Jean de Wavrin, Recueil des chroniques d'Angleterre (Volume III)
Credit British Library

I can’t even imagine how dreadful it must have smelled in Medieval castles.

And when large groups of unwashed bodies crowded together in banquet halls where vast quantities of rich food was served? Ick.

So these herbs were added to roast swan and roast goose as a preventative measure, and later the flavors became associated with all poultry, like chicken and turkey.

We use poultry seasoning—parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme—in holiday recipes to this day.

If they work as intended, I indeed will be thankful.