7 Herbs that Make Thanksgiving Sing

By Kathy Stephenson, Contributing WriterTurkey picture

Soon it will be time to pick or purchase herbs for your Thanksgiving meal. Kathy Stephenson of the Salt Lake Tribune gathered information on the top herbs used for a traditional holiday feast.

When Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were singing about “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,” they could have been singing about Thanksgiving dinner, as those four herbs — along with dill, bay leaves and ginger — can make the roast turkey, gravy, stuffing and other holiday dishes really sing.

Here’s a bit more about these seven classic Thanksgiving herbs and how to best use them for the big meal on Thursday, Nov. 26.

Sage • This pungent herb with gray-green leaves is a must-have herb at Thanksgiving, said Meagan Scott, a chef instructor with Salt Lake Community College’s Culinary Arts program. “It’s my favorite herb and one I would not want to go without.” Scott said she uses sage, a natural complement to poultry, inside the cavity of the turkey and rubbed over the skin. She also adds fresh sage leaves to the bread for stuffing.

Cooking instructor Marguerite Henderson concurs. She uses sage (as well as parsley, rosemary and thyme) to create an herb butter that is rubbed under the skin and on top of the turkey before roasting. The herb also goes in the pot to make a flavorful turkey stock. One thing to remember about sage, especially when it’s fresh: It can have a strong flavor, so use a light hand or it will overpower a recipe.

Thyme • “I call this small, lowly herb the mother of all herbs,” said chef Claire Nelson, of the Chef’s Secret Garden and the food service director at Thomas Cuisine Management. The tiny leaves can be used fresh or dried in all types of foods. At Thanksgiving, a few sprigs will add flavor to vegetables, soups, stocks and stuffings, said Nelson. Thyme — along with parsley and bay leaves — is one of the main components of a bouquet garni, a fancy term for herbs that have been tied together (or bundled in cheesecloth) and used to flavor soups, stews and broth.

Parsley • There is no excuse not to stock up on inexpensive, readily available parsley. For cooking, chefs say to use flat-leaf or Italian parsley, which has a richer, stronger taste. But have some curly parsley on hand for garnishes.


For more about using herbs for Thanksgiving, see the rest of Kathy Stephenson’s ’s article “7 herbs to make a Thanksgiving meal sing” from the in The Salt Lake Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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