Gunston Hall Plantation in Virginia has a sampler herb garden without the lovely strolling paths found in Colonial Williamsburg. We grow the herbs that graced the 18th Century kitchen garden that once included a large variety of vegetables and flowers. The garden reveals some of the herbs used in cooking, medicine and in household tasks. The garden is composed of two rectangular plots.
Hops are growing up, around and down three sturdy poles.Down below horseradish is growing. In April the horseradish grew beautiful tiny white flowers that tasted a bit like horseradish, but milder. The flowers are gone, and now we're waiting for the hops to bloom. The red fence in the background leads to the kitchen yard.
Southernwood grows on the other side of the hops. People say it smells similar to cedar. It's easy to understand that it was used to keep pests away from the woolen clothes and from crops stored in the attic.
Rue presides on the opposite rectangular bed from the hops. The smell is quite intense and was used to fumigate areas. One caution about rue is to not touch the plant in the sunlight, especially when blooming. It can give you a nasty rash, and you will "rue" the day you did not heed the warning.
Mint heads the other end of the rectangular bed, opposite from rue. It begs to be picked, a small bouquet is better then one leaf, so that the plant spreads out instead of getting leggy. Since the picture the deer heard my invitation, and chomped down more then a few bouquets.
The Herbs Growing in the Garden
(Salty herb, “Middle nature, neither warming or cooling” culinary and medicinal) [Sauer, 2001] Most prized spring vegetable of many Virginians. Jefferson grew it in a special way, “littered (mulched) the plants with tobacco leaves and dressed (fertilized) with manure.” Medicinally asparagus was made into distilled water to help with “gravel stones” (kidney stones) and lumbago. [Hatch, 2012]
(Pungent, warming and drying) Cultivated in Britain since 16th century. Wreaths or crowns were made of bay to bestow honor on heroes and poets. The modern word baccalaureate may come from this practice. Medicinally bay used to be given to people who had taken too many opiate medicines. [Grieves, 1971] Bay was used in cooking to flavor food. Beef was made to taste like “Red Deare” where bay leaves were placed under and above the cooked beef. [Hess, 1981]
(Pungent, warming & drying) “Also called Bergamot or Oswego tea, the citrus flavored leaves were used by the Oswego Indians as a tea. After the colonists refused to import British tea, they used Oswego tea as a substitute.” [Mary Ober] Medicinally Bee Balm helps keeps airways open when there is a cold or cough. [Kress, 2013]
(Pungent, warming and drying) Catnip was and is still used for fevers, colds and restlessness for both adults and children. It was considered the colic herb for centuries and is still used today. [Kress, 2013]
(Bitter/pungent taste, warm and dry in nature) A tea brewed from dried flowers was used to calm nerves and to soothe upset stomach. Sauer’s herbal states, “…staying all manner of pains, for emolliating (moistening), for healing, for opening, and for dispelling windiness and vapors."
"For quartan ague, take one quart of good wine and put it in a new earthenware vessel that can be well sealed. Stand this for one hour over glowing coals, then add half a handful of chamomile flowers. Seal it tightly, but do not let it boil." [Sauer, 2001, p. 91]
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
(Pungent, warming & drying)”The mucilaginous juices drawn out of the seeds when soaked in rosewater, then mixed with the water of fennel, will take away inflammation, redness, and pains in the eyes.” Clary Sage was also put in wine to flavor the wine and give warmth to an irritable stomach and cold head. [Sauer, 2001, p. 105]
(Salty (mineral rich), cooling and moistening) Used as a wound herb externally and internally. “Surgeons ought to hold comfrey in high regard, because it is quite useful in treating all sorts of wounds, ruptures, and injuries.” Also known as “Knit Bone,” because it also healed broken bones. [Sauer, 2001, p. 115]
(Sour (flowers), bitter (berries), cooling and drying) The flowers made into a tea encourages the body to sweat during a fever. The berries made an excellent wine and prevented colds and flu. [Sauer, 2001, p. 130]
(Bitter/pungent,warm & dry in nature) "It possesses numerous balsamic components from which it draws its capacity to open, to dissolve, to ease difficult breathing, to stop coughing, to withstand poison, and to strengthen the stomach. A fine electuary (herbal medicine mixed with honey), using, one half pound of honey that is brought up to a boil and then scummed well. This is good for coughs and asthma.” [Sauer, 2001, p 133]
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), beginning to produce its sweet seeds
(Pungent, warming, drying gently, strengthening the stomach) The distilled water is good for the inflammation of the eyes. Fennel leaves were pounded in a mortar with twice its weight