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What Is Happening in the BBG Herb Gardens This Week (June 4)

What Is Happening in the BBG Herb Gardens This Week (June 4)

By Barbara F. Smith

What beautiful weather to visit the Herb Display Gardens here at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. Many purple-blossomed herbs are blooming, including two of this week’s featured herbs — caraway thyme (Thymus herba-barona) and common sage (Salvia officinalis).

Native only to Corsica and Sardinia, caraway thyme is a wiry, carpeting plant with a caraway aroma. It can be grown to create a “thyme lawn” in hot, humid areas, creating a springy mat with heads of flowers. The plant’s traditional use was to season a “baron of beef” (a British reference to a large cut of beef suitable for roasting or braising) from which the herb’s name is taken. Today, it is more likely used to impart the flavor of caraway into a variety of dishes – soups, stews, grains or vegetables. Its tiny purple flowers are edible and add a visual interest when used fresh.

The Herb Society of America has chosen the thyme family to feature as the herb of the month for June. They write that this “unassuming little plant is a powerhouse for good health,” being packed with vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. Nearly 500 varieties of thyme are perennial herbs that are easy to grow, preferring well-drained soil and full sun to flourish. (For those not familiar with the Herb Society of America, it is a national organization whose membership study herb cultivation and cooking, herb and pollinator conservation, and herb topics beyond the garden, such as wellness and DIY projects — see more at

Another purple-flowered herb blooming this week is common sage (Salvia officinalis). This typical kitchen garden herb grows 12-30 inches tall and blooms in June, when it is a magnet for bees and butterflies. While it is commonly used in cooking (think sausages or Thanksgiving stuffing) it is also useful in an ornamental border, complimenting lilies or roses. As one author wrote, “like lovage and sweet cicely (last week’s featured herbs) common sage is as decorative as it is useful.” (P. Lima, Herbs – the Complete Gardener’s Guide). The flowers are edible, too, as a garnish or in herb butter. This herb has been used over the centuries as a medicinal herb.

The Herb Production Garden is finishing the planting of favorites for use in the Kitchen, and Herb Associate Nora Burch is shown watering the Lavender which is growing quickly. One of our crafty Herb Associates brought in several dozen knitted, catnip-stuffed mice, available in the BBG Gift shop, for your favorite feline.

The Herb Associates Kitchen Crew were extremely busy this week, as more herbs have been harvested and more products are underway. Imagine the wonderful aromas created by the preparation of Clara’s Rhubarb Jam, Mint Simple Syrup, Chive Blossom Vinegar and a Strawberry Shrub. The ever-popular Herb Mustard supply has been replenished, and a batch of Salt-Free Herb Seasoning was prepared. Two of our long-serving Herb Associates, Anna Smith and Marcia Brolli, are shown labeling and prepping the various products for sale in the BBG Gift Shop. Stop by on your next visit to the Garden and take home a sample of the Garden’s bounty for yourself or to give as a gift.

Thank you for your interest in the work of the BBG Herb Associates!

The Berkshire Botanical Garden’s Herb Associates began in 1957 and have been making and selling products for the benefit of BBG ever since. At BBG, the Herb Associates oversee a display garden and production garden, both located near the Center House. Members/volunteers meet every Tuesday morning during the late spring through mid-autumn each year, coinciding when the gardens themselves are open to the public. Members plant, weed and tend the gardens, as well as harvest and process the variety of herbs.

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