It turns out I’m a natural herb gardener. I love peonies, roses, calendulas, foxgloves, zinnias and hollyhocks.They’re all—technically speaking—herbs, useful plants grown for their flavor or fragrance or, traditionally, for their medicinal uses, for dyes, or for any economic or industrial purposes.
I don’t eat my peony roots, as the Chinese are said to have once done. But they flourish in my garden, in a sunny spot alongside parsley, basil and other essential culinary herbs. This year I’m branching out underground.
Horseradish is the Herb Society of America’s herb of the year. It is a gorgeous plant but it has a reputation as an invasive thug, so I’m going to try it in a big pot. People say you can plant a piece of root from the grocery store: Set it in the ground at an angle and cover the top with about 2 inches of soil. Water well and stand back.
The central Midwest is a horseradish hot spot: Collinsville, Illinois, in the rich American Bottom of the mighty Mississippi River, is the horseradish capital of the world, home of the International Horseradish Festival and a horseradish root derby.
Of course I also grow lettuce, greens, tomatoes and peppers, and this year lima beans are on my list. I really don’t have enough space or sun for all the vegetables and herbs I’d like to grow, so I’m going to ask my friend Kathy if she’ll let me join her in her plot at our local community garden. If you feel the pinch too, check out community gardens in your neighborhood. From what Kathy tells me, that’s where the action is.
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