Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme

Share this...

When I was 17, I graduated from the Sundre High School located in a small frontier town in the foothills of Alberta, Canada.

I left my father’s door for the first of four semesters at a nearby college in Red Deer. At the time, my favorite piece of music was Canticle: Are You Going to Scarborough Fair, a huge hit in 1965 by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, The song was based on a multitude of ancient ballads and folk music from the 17th – 19th Centuries. Energized by the beauty of this music, I was determined to find “my own Scarborough,” which I imagined to be a place of intense poetic beauty and verdant promise that I could share with others. It took me far longer than I imagined, but my own Scarborough eventually and graciously took shape over time.

The actual Scarborough Fair was an autumn market that poets and musicians eulogized over millennia. It was held in Yorkshire, England. If you’ve never heard Simon & Garfunkels’s achingly beautiful version from 1965 please click on the link and listen to Canticle. Other poignant renditions, each one different, include those by Bob Dylan in his 1963 Girl From the North Country, Marianne Faithful in her 1966 North Country Maid, and precious older renditions by Martin Carthy (1966) and Audrey Coppard (1956). The refrain, “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,” seems to date from 19th century versions.

Even today, over 50 years later I still love Simon & Garfunkel’s Canticle: Are You Going to Scarborough Fair. As the sweet, savory music poured over me one afternoon in my kitchen in 2019 and vibrated through the room a thought suddenly occurred to me: Perhaps the original ballads were meant to preserve a recipe for the household use of herbs. After all, the actual Scarborough Fair of medieval times was rooted in a very old, oral culture. Information was passed from one generation to another from mouth to poem to song and back again by home-grown musicians through kitchen concerts and country markets.
As it happened, I grew, harvested and dried large jars of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme that summer. They were already safely stored in my herb room.

A recipe? Inspired again by the beauty of the music as much as when I was younger I decided to experiment. I put the dried leaves of each herb through the blender to chop them into a finger-friendly constituency. I blended the result in a large bowl into two half-gallon jars. The result was the most delicious and versatile culinary combination I’ve ever used. It was truly magical how every dish cooked with it seemed gently transformed into the best version of itself.

Over the winter I gave away small amounts of the blend to friends. I used some everyday myself. Reports from others were very positive. A Vermont chef who trained in London at the Cordon Bleu loved it so much that he now dreams of growing these herbs in his own garden next year. He mentioned that the combination is rather like the renowned Herbs de Province. Is this, perhaps the English version?

Ingredients: Parsley Sage Rosemary Thyme

Suggested Method: Use 2 parts each parsley, sage, 1 part each rosemary, thyme and see how it goes. Make a small amount at first and adjust as you like. Experiment and learn as you go.

Note: The above herbs are easy for even the beginning gardener to take care of. You won’t be sorry you tried.

Darlene Witte
Darlene Witte

Professor of Education, (retired) at Johnson State College in Vermont leads the Green Mountain Writers' Poetry & Performance workshop that meets on Zoom each month on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays at 7 PM ET. Find out more at

Articles: 63

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *