By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America
One of the great things about the farmers markets is meeting people behind the product. At a market near my home I recently met growers HSA members Meghan and Rees Davis of Honey Hollow Herbs in Ashtabula, Ohio. Like many market growers they’re incredible resources for home gardeners. They know their products – both common and less common herbs. They keep learning and experimenting with new herbs. And, they share knowledge.
Pick up winter savory and Rees pronounces the lesser- known perennial his favorite herb. The long-lived hardy plant can be used fresh or dried, in soups, stews and root vegetable dishes. And it loves beans.
Ask Meghan her favorite and she protests it’s like picking a favorite child. Meghan’s choice? Basil, for its breadth of variety. In fact, the Davises are growing Pesto Perpetuo Basil, a tender perennial basil that’s variegated and doesn’t flower. The two-tone leaves add interest and the non-flowering characteristic makes it more productive.
Favorite herb isn’t the same as only herb, though. If they could grow just one herb Rees would choose basil for pesto. Meghan would choose any lemon herb – lemon verbena, lemon thyme, lemon basil – to add citrus flavor to her culinary efforts.
But limitations aren’t part of the herb farm formula. This year the duo is growing more than 70 herb varieties. They only take the most popular to market, but sell more on their farm. Most are culinary inspired, but some are native pollinator plants such as milkweed, wild bergamot and mountain mint. (For more information on the importance of pollinator plants, check this out Grow Herbs, Save the World)
Among their experimental herbs in 2018 are ‘Geisha’ Garlic Chives and ‘Cardinal’ Basil. ‘Geisha’ garlic chives have slightly larger, flatter leaves than regular garlic chives. Meanwhile, ‘Cardinal’ basil has dark red flowers and burgundy stems.
While Honey Hollow Herbs officially started in 2005, the Davises have been growing herbs for 25 years and gardening since they married in 1982. Gardening was retirement dream while they were working corporate jobs in product management for AT&T and computer project management at IBM, both in New Jersey. Natives of Kirtland and Ashtabula, they moved back to Northeast Ohio in 2004.
Over the years they built their knowledge as members of the Herb Society of America, by studying garden design at the New York Botanical Garden and through reading. Their must-have herb book is The Encyclopedia of Herbs: A Comprehensive Reference to Herbs of Flavor and Fragrance, By Art Tucker and Thomas DeBaggio. And, their favorite herb author is Jo Ann Gardner.
Giving one piece of advice the couple would say: “Don’t segregate your herbs. Incorporate them with flowers and vegetables and enjoy!”