VIETNAMESE CULINARY HERBS Rau gia vị (Rau thơm) Việt Nam
Edited by Ho Dinh Hai Long An - Vietnam Updated: 27/1/2015
1- Introductions to Culinary Herbs
1.1- General about Herbs In general use, herbs are any plants used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume. Culinary use typically distinguishes herbs as referring to the leafy green parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), from a "spice", a product from another part of the plant (usually dried), including seeds, berries, bark, roots and fruits. Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, and in some cases spiritual usage. General usage of the term "herb" differs between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs. In medicinal or spiritual use any of the parts of the plant might be considered "herbs", including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, resin, root bark, inner bark (and cambium), berries and sometimes the pericarp or other portions of the plant. The word "herb" is pronounced /ˈɜrb/ by most North American speakers and in some dialects in the UK, or /ˈhɜrb/ by some North American speakers and in all other English-speaking countries. In botanical English the word "herb" is also used as a synonym of "herbaceous plant".
1.2- Herbaceous plants A herbaceous plant (in American botanical use simply herb) is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground. Herbaceous plants may be annuals, biennials or perennials. - Annual herbaceous plants die completely at the end of the growing season or when they have flowered and fruited, and they then grow again from seed. - A biennial plant is a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In the first year the plant grows leaves, stems, and roots (vegetative structures), then it enters a period of dormancy over the colder months. During the next spring or summer, the stem of the biennial plant elongates greatly, or "bolts". The plant then flowers, producing fruits and seeds before it finally dies. There are far fewer biennials than either perennial plants or annual plants. Examples of herbaceous biennials include carrot, parsnip and common ragwort; herbaceous perennials include potato, peony, hosta, mint, most ferns and most grasses. - A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter-lived annuals and biennials. The term is also widely used to distinguish plants with little or no woody growth from trees and shrubs, which are also technically perennials. The age of some herbaceous perennial plants can be determined by analyzing annual growth rings in the secondary root xylem, a method called herbchronology. Herbaceous perennial and biennial plants have stems that die at the end of the growing season, but parts of the plant survive under or close to the ground from season to season (for biennials, until the next growing season, when they flower and die). New growth develops from living tissues remaining on or under the ground, including roots, a caudex (a thickened portion of the stem at ground level) or various types of underground stems, such as bulbs, corms, stolons, rhizomes and tubers.
1.3- Types of Herbs depending on using 1- Culinary herbs Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that, like spices, they are used in small amounts and provide flavor rather than substance to food. Herbs can be perennials such as thyme or lavender, biennials such as parsley, or annuals like basil. Perennial herbs can be shrubs such as rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, or trees such as bay laurel, Laurus nobilis - this contrasts with botanical herbs, which by definition cannot be woody plants. Some plants are used as both herbs and spices, such as dill weed and dill seed or coriander leaves and seeds. Also, there are some herbs such as those in the mint family that are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. 2- Medicinal herbs Some plants contain phytochemicals that have effects on the body. There may be some effects when consumed in the small levels that typify culinary "spicing", and some herbs are toxic in larger quantities. For instance, some types of herbal extract, such as the extract of St. John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum) or of kava (Piper methysticum) can be used for medical purposes to relieve depression and stress. However, large amounts of these herbs may lead to toxic overload that may involve complications, some of a serious nature, and should be used with caution. Herbs have long been used as the basis of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, with usage dating as far back as the first century CE and far before. In India, the ayurveda medicinal system is based on herbs. Medicinal use of herbs in Western cultures has its roots in the Hippocratic (Greek) elemental healing system, based on a quaternary elemental healing metaphor. Famous herbalist of the Western tradition include Avicenna (Persian), Galen (Roman), Paracelsus (German Swiss), Culpepper (English) and the botanically inclined Eclectic physicians of 19th century/early 20th century America (John Milton Scudder, Harvey Wickes Felter, John Uri Lloyd). Modern pharmaceuticals had their origins in crude herbal medicines, and to this day, some drugs are still extracted as fractionate/isolate compounds from raw herbs and then purified to meet pharmaceutical standards. Some herbs are used not only for culinary and medicinal purposes, but also for psychoactive and recreational purposes; one such herb is cannabis. 3- Sacred herbs Herbs are used in many religions. For example, myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) and frankincense (Boswellia spp) in Hellenismos, the Nine Herbs Charm in Anglo-Saxon paganism, the neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves, Bael (Aegele marmelos) leaves, holy basil or Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum), Turmeric or "Haldi" (Curcuma longa), and cannabis in Hinduism, and many Rastafarians too consider cannabis (Cannabis sp) to be a holy plant. SiberianShamans also used herbs for spiritual purposes. Plants may be used to induce spiritual experiences for rites of passage, such as vision quests in some Native American cultures. The Cherokee Native Americans use both white sage and cedar for spiritual cleansing and smudging.