|Capriland's Herb Farm|
My long love affair with herbs and herb gardening began back in the 70's. I was newly married and living in Connecticut. A friend invited me to tour Capriland's, an herb farm not too far from my home at that time. I was immediately interested since I loved gardening and besides the tour included an herbal lunch!
I will never forget the experience of wandering through the gardens that sunny, humid day in midsummer. It was like coming home and yet I had never been there.
|Bee Balm- perfect for Earl Grey Tea|
As we walked, the owner of the garden, an older woman named Adelma Simmons, introduced us to each plant by breaking off a piece of the plant, bruising it, and passing it around for us to experience the aroma.
Some scents were familiar to me, of course, but many were not. Never before had I inhaled so many delightful fragrances. Most of my experience with herbs up until that day had been opening a jar of dried oregano. What a wondrous world was revealed to me when I smelled my first fresh herb!
Our tour guide, a trailblazing herbalist who wrote many books on herb gardening, well before herbs became popular, acquainted us with each plant and it’s usefulness, both in cooking and as medicine.
Once I heard about the medicinal qualities of these amazing plants, I was off and running. I had learned in pharmacology that many drugs, like aspirin and digitalis, were originally made from plants, but it never occurred to me that some plants could be used by anyone to heal everyday aches and pains.
After returning home from the farm, I immediately started a few basil plants on my tiny patio outside the apartment and set out to learn as much as I could about herb gardening. Although it would be a few years before I could plant a garden in my own yard, I did the best I could with pots outside my kitchen door.
I’ve planted several herb gardens in the years since I visited that farm. My plants grow in Massachusetts, Brooklyn, San Franscisco and several places on Long Island.
The garden I tend now comes closest to my memory of Capriland’s. I love to stroll about, pinching off a bit of hyssop or rosemary and inhaling the scent, bees and butterflies buzzing and fluttering along with me. I stop near the basil patch to catch a breath of heaven and dream of the pesto I’ll make in a few weeks.
I always say hello to my stately bronze fennel and lean in for a whiff. I’ll harvest the seeds in September and use them to make fennel tea for my mother when she complains of “gas.” I catch the scent of thyme as I step along the path. It reminds me of the blessed relief I get from sinus pain during the winter by making an inhalation of thyme.
|Drying Lavender for the winter|
When I have a headache, I find the lavender, break off a few sprigs and inhale deeply. Soon the headache eases and I can think again. Of course, I could take two aspirin , but I’d rather go for a walk in my garden and use the incomparable scent of lavender for relief. It conjures up Capriland’s and Adelma Simmons who turned me on to herbs!
Adelma Simmons' many books are still in print. My favorite is Herb Gardens of Delight. It describes eight different herb gardens and what to plant in each. It includes fragrance, culinary, dye, medicinal, and four other gardens.