Halloween is upon us, and if your spirit is craving something "super-natural" this week, forget about chocolate bars and candy corn and gather up a basket of herbs instead. In just about any backyard garden or patio potager, you'll find mysterious plants that are rich in folklore, magic, and superstition. A sprig of dill, for example, is said to be a good way to protect against witches, while garlic works like a charm to keep those pesky vampires away.
"Folklore is what attracts many people to herbs in the first place," says landscape architect Shirley Kerins, who oversees the Herb Garden at The Huntington in addition to managing the plant sales. "The child in us really loves all those marvelous legends and stories."
Need protection from evil spirits or jinxes? The savvy sorceress often turns to rosemary, cumin, or anise seeds—or so the story goes. To add a bit of spice to a love charm, sprinkle in some cardamom and coriander. And, when all else fails, reverse a curse with mint, sage, or yarrow.
If casting spells is not your cup of chamomile tea, you can work plenty of bewitching magic of the culinary kind by experimenting with herbs in the kitchen. Want to exorcise of few of your personal demons? Spend an afternoon planting tarragon and marjoram in your garden. Ideas and inspiration can be found among the cookbooks and gardening guides in the Bookstore & More. Look for Kerins' A Celebration of Herbs: Recipes from the Huntington Herb Garden, among other titles.
Meanwhile, in The Huntington's own half-acre Herb Garden, Kerins and a corps of volunteers are in the process of replanting the beds of medicinal, culinary, perfume, and dyeing herbs to return the landscape design to an earlier, traditional incarnation. Stop by on your next visit and check out the progress.
Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator at The Huntington. firstname.lastname@example.org // Photo: Pumpkin in The Huntington's herb garden