And the 2016 Herb of the Year Is… Peppers?

When you think of herbs, you probably don’t think about chili peppers.

Your first thought may be parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. And, if you think long enough about Simon and Garfunkel, you’re brain is likely to stumble on another kind of herb. Now that it’s legal in some places, you’re also more likely to admit to that association.

If you think really long and hard about herbs though, you may remember a British sitcom or foreign exchange student laughing because they say herbs with the h (as though they are pronouncing the name Herbert). Many Americans, on the other hand, pronounce it erbs like verbs without the v.

What you don’t think of are chili peppers. They’re nothing like herbs.

The International Herb Association

According to the International Herb Association, they are though. Peppers aren’t just a herb even; they’re the herb of 2016.

To get to that point, you’re likely to go back to Simon and Garfunkel, or at least the herbs listed in the famous song. Those are herbs as you know them. So what is it that you don’t know?

Dictionary.com describes a herb as:

1. a flowering plant whose stem above ground does not become woody.
2. such a plant when valued for its medicinal properties, flavor, scent, or the like.

The full definition of a herb according to Merriam-Webster.com is very similar to this. Interestingly, UrbanDictionary.com defines herb as:

used by rapper esoteric, in the song herb. pronounced like its spelled, no silent h. it doesn't mean weed or drugs, its a term for someone who follows trends or just is a complete bullshitter. basically one of those kinds of people that nobody likes.

That’s a terrific definition, even if the spelling and punctuation are all over the place. But, it’s unlikely to be the one used by the International Herb Association.

Indeed, we’re guessing they don’t even use the first one provided by Dictionary.com as Thyme definitely produces a woody stem above ground (and it was the herb of the year in 1997).

The Pepper as Herb of the Year 2016

Peppers are definitely valued for their medicinal properties, as well as their flavor, as per the second definition of herb (though working on that definition alone does leave the term herb open to any number of interpretations).

The committee that chooses the herb of the year (and which have already been chosen through 2020), explains that herbs (loosely defined, of course) must be outstanding in at least two of these three categories to claim the title of Herb of the Year:

• Medicinal
• Culinary
• Decorative

If you can call a pepper a herb, then it definitely nails it on all three fronts; it’s just that you need to do some mental gymnastics to put peppers, chili, or otherwise, into the herb category. We’re guessing though that listening to Simon and Garfunkel or the rapper, Esoteric, will help you make that leap.


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