All About Thyme
  A Weekly Calendar of Times & Seasonings

  Celebrating the Mysteries, Magic, and Myths of Herbs
Susan Wittig Albert  
Special Feature, May 6, 2019  

Boon Companions and Bosom Buddies

I have pepper and peony seed and a pound of garlic
And a farthingworth of fennel-seed, for fasting days.

—William Langland, Piers Plowman, 14th century

Throughout history, many herbs have been valued as much for their seeds as for their leaves, if not more. When you plant your herb garden (either in the ground or on your deck) be sure to include some of the interesting herbs that are valued for their seeds. Or perhaps you'd like to learn how to cook with these seeds. Whether in your garden or in your kitchen, you'll be delighted with the result! Here are five popular choices for you.

  • Anise (Pimpinella anisum). One of the oldest known aromatic seeds, anise was used as currency in Biblical times. It has long been prized for its scent and its health-promoting properties (it is carminative, expectorant, and anti-spasmodic). It has a licorice taste, and is used to flavor sweet pickles, salads, cakes, cookies, candies, liqueurs, and marinades.
  • Caraway (Carum carvi). Rye bread is flavored with caraway seed, as are cakes, biscuits, cheese, carrot, cabbage, and potato dishes. It is much used in European and German cuisine. Medicinally, the seed was used to treat digestive ailments. In ancient Egypt, it was used in love potions.
  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum). Coriander is mentioned in the Bible (manna is white, "like a coriander seed," Exodus 16:31). It was widely used as a cough remedy, an aphrodisiac, and as an incense to summon devils! In cooking, it has been used to flavor beans, onions, potatoes, sausages, stews, pastries, and wine. It is also included in many curry and chili powders.
  • Dill (Antheum graveolens). Dill has carminative properties and calms intestinal cramps. In Scandinavia, it was given to colicky babies, and derives its name from the Old Norse, dilla, meaning "to lull." Dill's most famous culinary use—the dill pickle—has been around for at least 400 years. (And of course, you remember dill as the signature herb in China Bayles' mystery, A Dilly of a Death.)
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus). Peppery nasturtium flowers are a colorful addition to salads, and their pickled seeds are a good substitute for more-expensive capers.

Pickled nasturtium seeds. Prepare a brine of 1 quart white vinegar, 2 teaspoons pickling salt, a thinly-sliced onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 peppercorns, and ½ teaspoon each allspice, mace, and celery seed. As your nasturtium blossoms fall, pick the green seed pods, wash, and drop into the pickling mixture. Refrigerate. Stir each time you add more. When you have a cupful, take them out for use, with brine to cover; continue adding to your pickle with fresh seeds until the season is over.

Read more about seeds for seasoning and growing:

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Susan Wittig Albert is the author of two recent memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. Her fiction, which has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, includes A Wilder Rose (a novel about Rose Wilder Lane's collaboration with Laura Ingalls Wilder in the writing of the Little House books); the China Bayles mysteries; the Darling Dahlias mysteries; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige. She is founder and past president of the Story Circle Network, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, and Honorary President (2012-2014) of the Herb Society of America. More

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She's the beloved fictional herbalist in Susan Wittig Albert's popular mystery series, set in Pecan Springs TX. For more about her books, visit

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