When Sherry Emershaw of Franklin Township began volunteering at the Denison House in Forty Fort in April, she was eager to assist. Besides helping to give tours of the historic, 18th-century home, she wanted to put her gardening experience to work.
So after the subject of an herb garden came up at a meeting of the Denison Advocates, the volunteer group that operates the tours, she expanded on the smaller herb garden that was planted last year. Prior to that, the house had not had an herb garden for a decade or so, said Bob Mischak, vice president and financial manager of the volunteer group.
So Emershaw planted rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, mint, lavender and French tarragon. Some dill and lamb’s ear also claim some real estate.
Emershaw, who works in financial services, talked with The Times Leader about the garden and some good uses for its bounty.
TL: When did you plant the herb garden at the Denison House?
SE: I planted at the very beginning of May. There was a very tiny herb garden planted last year, but I expanded on it.
TL: What made you decide to plant the herbs?
SE: We had talked about (the herb garden) at one of our meetings. It was overgrown and needed a little TLC. I added the brick to just try to set it off a little bit and to protect it when they’re taking care of the yard. I added mulch.
TL: Do you have experience with herbs?
SE: I have my own garden; I read a lot on gardening. I’ve been a gardener my whole life.
TL: Did you select herbs that colonists would have grown?
SE: I do like herbs that would have been common at the time. A few there are for cooking but also for medicinal purposes. … We do have lavender. That would be used in soap and for different things like sachets.
TL: Do you have recipes for each herb?
SE: I use herbs from my own herb garden for cooking all the time. For the herb garden, I found ones I use when I cook. Lambs ear would be more for medicinal purposes.
Basil, it’s very popular. … People make pesto with it. They use it in a lot of Italian cooking. My favorite is a fresh tomato from your garden with salt and pepper, fresh basil and mozzarella.
Rosemary I use with chicken or fish.
Tarragon, in special oils. I use it for a wonderful fresh green-bean recipe that calls for tarragon. When you use your fresh herbs, food tastes so much better.
Sage … I use that on Thanksgiving for the turkey. I have a wonderful recipe for sweet potatoes (with sage).
Thyme, a lot of Italian dishes it’s used in.
Mint garnishes a lot of teas.
Dill, pickling and preserving.
TL: Do they all have medicinal purposes?
SE: Every one of them. Sage flavors food, it’s a tooth whitener, and it’s brewed into an ale to facilitate baby delivery.
A lot of the more “scenty” (herbs), you would have strewn on your floor (in colonial days) as an air freshener.
Basil is an aid in indigestion. An oil from the leaves alleviates sore muscles and is an insect repellent.
Mint, chew on the leaves for heartburn. Gargle water with crushed leaves for sore throat. (Colonists) put them in boiled milk to keep it from curdling. Put it in tea to calm your nerves.
TL: Do you plan to plant anything else at the Denison House?
SE: I would like to, off to the side (of the house). I would like to make a bigger garden that’s more planned out.