Herb garden thriving at McClurg Dining Hall

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herb garden

Established by University Farm Manager Gina Raicovich and Stella Pfau, C’13, a fresh herb garden has been planted in front of McClurg Dining Hall. Farm volunteers frequently tend to the plants and answer questions about the garden’s creation, upkeep, and use in McClurg dishes. The garden serves as an aesthetic as well as edible experience for passersby who wish to try some of the herbs available.

Raicovich says, “The purpose of the project is to open doors to curricular and co-curricular opportunities in sustainable agriculture… and to show students what food looks like when it grows.”

Physical Plant Services at Sewanee contributed to the structure of the garden, especially the unique spiral design. The spiral is a sustainable way to create a vertical landscape as a home for both sun-loving, dry herbs and ones that grow best in a shaded, damp environment.

One way the herb garden serves the University is by drawing attention to how plants grow and what kind of work goes into keeping them alive and healthy. McClurg staff members use the herbs to provide fresh flavors to guests at the dining hall. Vegan dishes often include cilantro, sage, thyme, and oregano, all freshly picked from the garden. “There is no need to buy rosemary and sage anymore,” says Rick Wright, head chef at McClurg. “Those are especially important when we cook mashed potatoes with rosemary. And sage is a popular herb for savory dishes. While we used to order these from outside Sewanee, we now have them right out front.”

In this way the garden promotes the use of local plants and supports the University’s sustainability initiatives. The herb garden provides a way for staff to step outside McClurg and pick their ingredients by hand.

Additionally, students can take a seat on the herb garden bench and enjoy not only the look of the arrangement, but how the various plants taste and smell. According to Raicovich, it is the first step in a permaculture project at Sewanee, which revolves around self-sustaining agriculture. In the future, the University Farm hopes to extend the idea of edible landscapes to a new “food forest” that will offer edible species to students.

“There is a way to gather edible species native to the plateau,” Raicovich adds. “We could plant pawpaws, persimmons, blueberries, and Chickasaw plums. They’re low-maintenance, making this an ideal next step.”

For now, the herb garden is the main University Farm permaculture project. In warmer weather, regular volunteer hours are open for those who wish to contribute to planting and maintaining the herbs.

 - Lam Ho, C'17

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