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Sharing nature's bounty

Club creates community herb garden

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Community herb garden

One of summer’s greatest delights for a gardener is cutting fresh, fragrant herbs that are ready to spice up a meal or for a variety of other uses.

“Herbs make life fun,” said Anita Batman, a member of Town and Country Garden Club.

A community herb garden on Front Street makes that delight available to all.

The garden is a project of Town and Country Garden Club.

Committee members Batman and Rose Mary Lary take care of the garden’s upkeep.

The garden features flat and curly parsley plants, basil, oregano, sage, mint, dill and a little bit of rosemary growing with a yellow lantana plant.

“You can really just experiment with the herbs,” said Lary. “You may like one more than others, but you can put them in most anything.”

The small, quaint garden overflowing with greenery sits on the other side of the street in front of the Viking headquarters and features the Greenwood Cotton Row District sign.

The garden was originally built by Viking for former employee Dorothy Gates, who wanted to grow herbs there. After Gates retired and moved away, the interest in maintaining the garden declined.

It was Town and Country President Bettie Ray who brought it to the attention of the club’s membership.

“Every year, I volunteer for Bikes, Blues & Bayous, and one year, I was working at a booth in front of the garden,” she said. “I noticed how it was full of weeds, and people were laying all around it. I thought, ‘You know what, why don’t we take that garden over and do something with it?’”

Ray spoke with Viking Chief Financial Officer Jane Moss to ask if her idea would be possible. Then, she asked the garden club’s members if they would be interested in taking over the garden as a club project.

“They voted on it, and we adopted it and have been tending to it ever since,” she said.

In September of 2017, with a donation from Viking, the members began revitalizing the garden space.

Last year, they planted shrubs and flowers.

This year, however, Batman and Lary suggested restoring it to what it was originally intended to be — an herb garden.

Batman and Lary hope more community members will take advantage of the garden’s bounty.

“The more they cut, the more we’ll have,” said Batman. “If you keep cutting, you get a thick bush with lots of leaves.”

Batman suggested, for example, someone could stop by before dinner to clip some basil leaves.

“If you are going to have sliced tomatoes or a tomato sandwich for supper, you stop by and pinch a leaf or two,” she said.

When you get home, “Chop it fine, and sprinkle it over your sliced tomato at supper,” she said. “It just turns the tomato into a festival.”

Basil can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen.

“It’s really delicious on salads and really delicious in soups,” said Ray.

The garden club president said she uses herbs all the time.

“Rosemary is good with any kind of pork or potatoes,” Ray said.

Oregano is tasty in Italian dishes, such as pasta, spaghetti sauce or pizza.

Batman enjoys making pesto using both basil and oregano. Her simple recipe produces a delicious pesto, and she freezes it in a unique way to keep it fresh year-round.

“When I come to the garden, I harvest basil and oregano,” she said. “I throw a couple of garlic cloves in, and whip it through the blender with two-thirds olive oil and one-third butter — and I like lots of garlic in mine.”

Then, she places the freshly made pesto into ice cube trays and freezes them. The next day, she pops the cubes out of the trays and stores them a Ziploc bag in the freezer.

“So all winter long, I’ve got these cubes of frozen pesto in my freezer,” she said. “If I want my scrambled eggs in the morning to taste really classy, I throw a cube of pesto in the pan. ... Or I’ve got some pasta that I want to dress up or making spaghetti sauce, I throw in a couple of cubes of pesto. It’s even good melted over a baked potato.”

Batman and Lary said they didn’t want to plant a lot of rosemary because of the abundance growing at the north end of the Rail Spike Park Pavilion.

“It’s amazing how many things are good with rosemary,” said Batman. “It just perks things up.”

The herbs that grow in the Front Street garden are available to all in the community, including caterpillars that like to snack on some of the parsley leaves. Batman and Lary don’t mind.

“We planted enough for the caterpillars and us,” said Batman.

They planted certain herbs, such as parsley and dill, to attract butterflies and caterpillars.

With several fat black swallowtail caterpillars spotted earlier this week living the good life in the garden, it may soon become a thriving butterfly habitat.

The herbs are “really good food for butterflies,” said Lary.

For the people who also want to enjoy the herbs, the garden club has some suggestions for harvesting.

Parsley always comes up in three stems, and one is bigger and stronger and longer, said Batman.

“You cut out the bigger, stronger stem each time,” she said. “Then, the other two turn into big strong stems.”

For basil, those who would like to clip some leaves should cut the stem where two leaves are growing at each side.

“Every time it’s cut, it forks,” said Batman. “The side leaves immediately turn into two stems.”

The basil plant will become bushy and thick, producing even more leaves, which is what the club wants to happen. If the basil is not harvested, the plant will bolt to seed and stop producing leaves.

With Bikes, Blues & Bayous coming up Aug. 3, Ray said she is excited for the cyclists to enjoy the now flourishing green space.

“We have our herb garden and pretty flowers, and it looks good,” she said. “We want to thank Viking for allowing us to use this space. ... We really appreciated them allowing us to pretty it up and let the public enjoy it.”

• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7233 or rrobison@gwcommonwealth.com.

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