C-U Herb Society celebrates 35 years

I’ve never been much of a joiner. As a girl I didn’t even enjoy Girl Scouts that much.

And as a journalist I’ve had to avoid joining clubs and organizations. Might have to write a story about them one day, and that would be a conflict of interest.

But after doing a story 10 years ago on the Champaign-Urbana Herb Society, then celebrating its 25th anniversary, I had to enlist.

I couldn’t resist the delicious refreshments, many spiked with fresh herbs, served at meetings. And the group of mostly women has always been a nice one. Not at all a "society" group but rather a collection of eccentrics, intellectuals and others, all of whom love to garden, and not just herbs.

After missing several meetings, I recently rejoined the fold, attending the Herb Society’s 35th anniversary dinner at the Tony Noel Ag Building at Parkland College.

The enjoyable evening included a dinner, served buffet-style, prepared by Parkland’s culinary service. The chicken was especially good, cooked in what the chef told me was a simple roux sauce, with parsley.

The piece de resistance, though, was a large cake, decorated with real roses, made by Herb Society member Jane Myers — who couldn’t even make the dinner.

For me, it was love at first bite. The moist, white cake was flavored with rosewater and lime, an irresistible combination. I hope Jane contributes the recipe to Sprigs, our newsletter.

At each meeting, a member usually gives a talk on a herb. Dianne Visek was to give one on spiderwort but instead brought sedum candleholders she had fashioned, from purchased candle holders and sedum.

She is always up to something interesting.

She made them by merely placing clippings of sedum into a mix of Perlite, soil and sand, or just light soil, in the base of flat, round candle holders. She used sedum with tiny leaves, not autumn sedum.

She advised us not to overwater sedum, saying it prefers drier soil. And she said to keep the sedum candleholders near light. The clippings easily set down roots.

After Dianne's talk, society members discussed the early years of the club, when more unusual plants and herbs were not as available as they are now. That’s another bonus of the Herb Society: There are frequent plant exchanges, so you end up with plants, not just herbs, for free.

Another bonus is all the information we receive about herbs and plants, and what to do with them. At the meeting we each received a copy of the society’s "Herbal Christmas Traditions Gifts & Recipes," a slim red booklet with lore about herbs and information on how to make wreaths, tussie mussies, tree decorations, potpourri, bath sachets, fireplace faggots and pomander balls.

I’ll let you Google tussie mussies and fireplace faggots.

I also enjoy the fellowship at the meetings. At the  dinner I sat across from two newer members: Tom and Katie Newman. An expert in bees, Tom answered many of my questions about them with interesting detail.

Somehow our conversation drifted to ice cream and gelato, and the Newmans mentioned that they had invested in an Italian gelato maker, with a self-refrigeration compressor, that they just love.

The next day Katie sent me a nice e-mail containing a link to a blogger’s review of the gelato maker, the DeLonghi GM6000. It's now on my to-buy list.

The Herb Society does a lot more than just meet, but in case you want to know, the meetings are at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month, except January, when there is no meeting.

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