If you’re looking for an herbal escape that goes beyond beautiful gardens, Fredericksburg Herb Farm in Texas is a wonderful place to relax, rejuvenate and be inspired. Located just four blocks off the beaten path of Fredericksburg’s Main Street, the farm offers a hidden oasis of herbal encounters.
Several huge oak trees set the scene with a quaint, country feel. Giant pecans provide cooling shade for an enclave of wood-sided vintage buildings, many of them still covered with their original tin roofs.
Alongside one such building, The Poet’s Haus (now a store filled with herbal goodies), grows a stunning mass of hoja santa (Piper auritum), an aromatic herb with massive, heart-shaped, velvety leaves that smell of aniseed or root beer when crushed. The Maya and Aztec people made tamales by wrapping fish or meat in the fragrant leaves of this plant before cooking. Today, the farm’s chefs use the leaves to wrap and flavor smoked fish.
Housed in an historic stone building, the Herb Farm Restaurant features a variety of vegetables and herbs, many of them grown in the farm’s 3,000-square-foot organic garden. Snap peas, spinach, mesclun greens and Armenian cucumbers grow abundantly, but heirloom varieties are the garden’s main attraction. Masses of ripe heirloom tomatoes–like ‘Purple Cherokee’, ‘Brandywine’, ‘Black Krim’, and ‘Lemon Boy’–appear in a variety of delicious cuisine, from salads to desserts.
Bordering the entrance to the restaurant is the newly renovated Cross Garden. A white arbor invites visitors to enter and enjoy a peaceful stroll amid herbs arranged four-square fashion around a multicomplex birdhouse.
Throughout the grounds, country relics such as an antique plow, vintage wheelbarrow and rope swing recall a simpler time. After a casual ramble, you can make your way to the farm’s open-air nursery to buy herbs, native plants or perennials to bring home.
This hidden gem in the heart of Texas Hill Country may take you by surprise. But an even bigger surprise is what Fredericksburg Herb Farm has in store: in spring 2010, look for a new spa facility and bed and breakfast cottages at the farm.
Fredericksburg Herb Farm; Fredericksburg, TX; (830) 997-8615; www.fredericksburgherbfarm.com.
Frequent contributor Kris Wetherbee grows herbs in the hills of western Oregon.