Garlands gardener Cathy Nardo holds a lemon verbena, “Herb of Enchantment,” that holds a wonderful lemon scent when dried for use in teas, perfumes and other scented products.
As much as she enjoys growing herbs, Garlands member Cathy Nardo’s passion really blossoms when talking about herbs.
“Every herb has a story!” says Cathy. “They’ve all been used throughout history, some even dating back to the Egyptians.” Cathy is a seasoned lecturer on herb history and folklore, who has given presentations to local garden clubs, historical societies, arboretums, and botanical gardens.
For example, did you know that rosemary is the herb of remembrance? Cathy shared how Greek students wore rosemary crowns to keep them alert during lessons, how mourners would toss rosemary onto graves to assure the deceased that they wouldn’t be forgotten and how brides through the ages placed rosemary sprigs in their bouquets to let their families know they’d be remembered after marriage.
Clearly, Cathy is a passionate and knowledgeable presenter, but the lecture circuit has dried up because of COVID-19. Online herb talks are not quite the same. “You can’t smell an herb on Zoom,” says Cathy. “I always bring samples of the herbs that I’m talking about for people to see, smell, and taste.” The sweet, sugar taste of the stevia plant is always a favorite.
Herb Gardening is Trending!
The silver lining of the pandemic is that herb gardening is trending and growing in popularity now that people have more time to focus on their homes and gardens than before. Like others, Cathy finds her time in the garden as an opportunity to relax, unwind, and escape the problems of the day, if only for a bit. Keeping up the thirty or so plants in the garden takes about six to eight hours a week and even more time during planting and harvesting.
Cathy’s goal is to have something blooming from May through September and to attract honeybees, the great pollinators, to The Garlands gardens. Currently, the stars of the garden are the garlic chive white blossoms, African blue basil, lavender, and golden lemon thyme.
With the harvest, Cathy dries some herbs and makes flavored vinegars and butters, so she and her lucky family and friends can enjoy her garden’s freshness all year long.
“I make a pesto butter with basil, flat-leaf parsley, garlic and basil vinegar that’s great served on pasta, bread, veggies, meat, and fish,” says Cathy. The description is enough to inspire anyone to get growing!
For beginners, Cathy suggests starting with easy-to-grow perennials such as chives, garlic, and tarragon. More adventurous growers can try their hand at the herb loveage, which can grow up to six feet tall! It has a celery flavor and was used in Colonial times as a dried herb to flavor winter soups and stews.
Another lesser-known herb, borage, produces beautiful blue edible flowers that can be sprinkled on desserts or in cocktails. Borage, with a kind of cucumber flavor and nitrates, is known as “Medieval Gatorade,” because it was served to jousters to revive and refresh them during tournaments.
There is also a chocolate mint herb that smells and tastes like Frango mints! Apparently, it features dark, chocolaty brown runners that look lovely in a hanging basket to boot.
If Cathy’s stories and recipe have piqued your interest in herbs, now is the time to start planning a spring herb garden of your own!