Bouquet Garni: The Foundation Of French Provencal Cooking

A bouquet garni is simply a bundle of herbs. The traditional implementation involves placing the herbs into a cheesecloth bag and tying them up, but the bag not essential; the term refers simply to the herb.

The first use of the bouquet garni has been lost to history, but the first mention of it is in The Oxford Companion to Food first published in 1999. It described the use of the bouquet garni as a tool for masking the flavor of different foods during the Middle Ages. During the 1600s, French and English cooks began using herbs more precisely to create subtle flavor combinations.

By this point, the use of herb bundles was already an established cooking technique; however, the components varied. In 1656, Pierre de Lune described a bundle consisting of thyme and chervil along with parsley. He wrapped his herbs in bacon.The bouquet garni continues to be a popular way to add flavors to a dish, but the ingredients list is still subject to variation.

Flavor profile of bouquet garni

Because the components of a bouquet garni can vary, the flavor profile can vary as well. Spices like cloves and peppercorns are also sometimes included. The classic bouquet garni contains bay leaf, thyme, and parsley, with chervil and tarragon added in some cases. This version provides sweetness and astringency to enhance the flavor of savory foods.

Health benefits of bouquet garni

Because there is no one set of ingredients, the precise nutritional profile can vary just like the flavor profile. However, the bouquet garni used in classic French cooking does contain certain herbs that can provide many health benefits due to ingredients like:

  • Antioxidants: Chervil and parsley both contain many flavonoid antioxidants like apigenin, which may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Apigenin acts as a neuroprotector that may limit damage to neurons. Bay leaf is also a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C, which are two important antioxidants. A 100 g serving can provide more than twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin A and more than 77 percent of your vitamin C requirement.
  • Minerals: Parsley, bay leaf, and thyme are all included in the traditional bouquet garni and all three are good sources of potassium. Your body needs potassium to control heart rate and blood pressure. They also contain high levels of iron, which is used to make red blood cells. A 100 g serving of bay leaves contains 537 percent of your daily iron requirement; that same quantity of thyme provides 218 percent and parsley contains over 77 percent.
  • Essential oils: All of the bouquet garni herbs are known to contain essential oils, some of which have anti-fungal and antiseptic qualities. Thymol is one of the best known of these oils, but a bouquet garni can also provide eugenol and limonene.

The herbs (and sometimes spices) in a bouquet garni can provide specific health benefits such as:

  • Relief for diabetics: While more research is needed to verify its benefits for diabetics, the essential oil eugenol may have the ability to reduce their blood sugar.
  • Lowered blood pressure: Studies on rats have shown that certain varieties of thyme are able to lower blood pressure by reducing heart rate.
  • Reduced cold symptoms: Thymol is considered an effective cough remedy and thyme tea is recommended as a remedy for coughs and sore throats.

Common uses of bouquet garni

Traditionally, the bouquet garni’s main use is in French Provencal cooking. It is a popular tool for cooking casseroles and stews. It is also used to make soups and stocks. In all cases, the bouquet garni makes it easy to remove herbs before serving.