Although Tish and Bill Tuohy's home south of Lawrence was built little more than 10 years ago, it looks as if it could have sheltered one of Lawrence's founding families.
Every little detail is reminiscent of an 1800s homestead, including the magnificent herb garden, which is situated just outside the Tuohy's kitchen door.
"Women in the 1800s would just step outside and collect some herbs from their gardens for the feast that evening," Bill says.
And there are more than enough herbs to go around at the New England Salt Box-style home. The Tuohy's garden is sectioned into four beds with a sundial in the center as a focal point. Growing in the beds are basil, yarrow, thyme, chives, oregano, lemon mint and - Tish's favorite - chocolate mint. She uses it in her brownie pie.
"Just the other day I made a chive butter for some lobster we were having," Tish says. "I regularly use my lemon mint in tea, and the basil and oregano in pasta dishes. It is just great to have those herbs at my fingertips."
Indeed, most dishes would be far less tasty without an infusion of herbs. And with somewhere between 40 and 60 types available, there's really no excuse to not grow at least a couple of varieties in your garden.
They're easy to grow and take up very little space. In fact, most herbs can be grown in containers. They also count aromatic foliage and gorgeous blooms among their assets.
From a botanical viewpoint, an herb is a seed plant that does not produce a woody stem, but an herb will live long enough to develop flowers and seeds. Herbs are generally perennials and annuals, but a few are biennials. Herbs tend to be disease-resistant and attract very few pests. In fact, herbs such as garlic can actually ward away pests.
Herbs come in four categories, though many cross over into more than one of these groups because they are such utilitarian plants.
¢ Aromatic: These are grown for scent. They do well in flower vases, as dried arrangements. Their oils are used in perfumes, candles, toiletries and potpourris. Lavender and mint would fall into this category.
¢ Culinary: These herbs enliven our palettes and plates. Examples include basil, chives and dill.
¢ Medicinal: These are used in medicines and have aided in curing many illnesses throughout human history. Garlic, for instance, is said to help keep cholesterol down.
¢ Ornamental: Most herbs are lumped into this category, but a good example is the scented geranium. They add to the ambiance of any herb garden.
Herbs have long been at the center of romance, religion, politics, health and superstitions. The Chinese believed coriander bestowed immortality, and in the Middle Ages, coriander was used in love potions as an aphrodisiac. Lavender was used in nosegays to ward off the plague, and in the 17th century, the French filled their fields with lavender for the perfume trade. The Egyptians valued marigold (calendula) as a rejuvenating herb, it was used to make wreaths to crown gods and goddesses in India, where people believed dreaming of marigolds was a sign of good times.
For contemporary gardeners, herbs can last into the cold winter months if they are dried and bagged, making the purchase of expensive spices at the grocery store unnecessary. When the flavor for summer dishes is sprouting just outside your window, you don't have to go far to spice up your life.
Anise: A hardy perennial
Basil: An annual that likes sun; good on tomatoes.
Bee balm: A perennial that spreads and attracts butterflies.
Caraway: A hardy biennial.
Catnip: A perennial that attracts butterflies and cats.
Calendula: A hardy annual otherwise known as marigold.
Chamomile: A perennial ground cover that likes sun.
Chervil: A hardy perennial.
Chives (common or garlic): A perennial sun-lover; good on eggs.
Coriander/cilantro: A tender annual.
Dill: An annual that grows best in the ground rather than a pot; good for pickling.
Echinacea: A hardy perennial.
Fennel: A perennial that likes part sun.
Lavender: A hardy perennial, mainly for scent.
Marjoram/oregano: A sun-loving perennial, good on lamb and fish.
Mint: A spreading, sun-loving perennial with more than 600 varieties.
Parsley: A hardy biennial.
Rosemary: A hardy evergreen perennial.
Sage: A hardy perennial; good on chicken.
Scented geraniums: A hardy annual.
Thyme: A perennial ground cover; good in soups.
Yarrow: A hardy perennial.