The New York Unit of the Herb Society of America hosted its first Herb Fair in 1948. It was a smallish affair at a member’s home in the Bedford area, with a modest herbal display and sale.
The fair grew in scale and scope every year and for the last several Septembers has been held under a big white tent on the grounds of the John Jay Homestead in Katonah, drawing a few hundred fans to enjoy the annual harvest of the herbs.
This year, as they celebrate the 65th anniversary of the old-fashioned country fair on ThursdaySept. 19, Herb Society members are promising the usual culinary delights — don’t miss the lovage soup, a staple since 1948, and the many herb-flecked baked goods — along with a few new items for fairgoers.
(photos by Nancy Dexter)
Lunch and beverages will be available for sale, along with themed gift baskets, herbs and other plants from members’ gardens, dried arrangements and wreaths, tarragon mustard, jellies and jams, flea-repellent dog collars, and garden books and tools. A Green Elephant table will offer planters and other containers, candles and china.
This year’s Herb of the Year is elderberry, so look for an Elderberry Table, with elderberry-based tea (courtesy of the Cozy Tea Cart) and elderberry-infused vinegar and syrup (courtesy of member Claire Pierson, who will also provide make-it-yourself instructions).
Longtime member and master gardener Vivian Utko will be doing culinary demonstrations at the Q&A table.
There will also be a few outside vendors at the fair, including beekeeper D.J. Havercamp, who will be selling jars of honey, and Tearrific, which will have several flavors of specialty ice cream.
Be sure to take time to wander around the large herb garden at the Jay Homestead, which is tended by volunteer members of the Herb Society from early spring through the final harvest. Last year, thanks to a $65,000 grant from the Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust, the garden got a major rehab. A critical retaining wall was rebuilt, for $50,000, and the rest of the money went toward restoring the gravel pathways.
(TJN file photo)
The herb garden is divided into seven different areas: culinary, medicinal, and fragrant herbs, pest repellents, dye plants, shrub borders and ground covers. Much of the stuff for sale at the Herb Fair got its start in this well-kept garden.