Olfactory Outings

By Sydney Chandler

A long inhale . . . traces of basil, rosemary, and thyme swirl into visitors’ nostrils. For some, these scents may trigger emotional responses, pull up vivid memories, or prompt reflection on applications of these plants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGolden Lemon Thyme

The Fragrant Herb Garden is home to an incredible variety of herbs and spices. One section is a tour of the world: herbs and spices that reflect the diversity of world cuisine, herbal medicine, and enjoyable scents. The Egyptian Tree Onion has a particularly playful curl.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEgyptian Tree Onion

Nearby is a seemingly endless selection of mint plants. They vary in leaf shape, plant structure, and smell. The names are a highlight: strawberry mint, pineapple mint, orange mint, cat mint, and more! Historically, early traders kept their harvest locations secret and exaggerated tales of harvest excursions in order to drive up the value of their product. High prices meant that herbs were mainly reserved for European society’s elite in the Middle Ages. Luckily, today’s curious cooks have increased accessibility to a diverse selection of herbs — including mint!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHimalayan Silver Mint

Many herbs have applications beyond cooking. Original applications inspired advancements in modern Western medicine. In the 7th century, the Mohammedans developed strategies to extract essential oils. Early anecdotal accounts of healing properties have prompted further research which has already diversified treatment options in medicine. Perhaps a visit to the Herb Garden will one day feel synonymous to a trip to the pharmacy. For now, visitors have the opportunity to explore a live encyclopedia of herbs while pondering past, present, and future applications of these special plants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALamb’s Ears

 Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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