By BRENNA GRITEMAN
As the Hancock County Farmers Market enters its second season, it is wholly appropriate that we turn our attention to a well-rounded seasoning offered by one of the markets most ardent supporters.
Ann Boyds Zesty Italian Herb Blend combines a handful of readily available, simple-to-grow ingredients: dried oregano, sweet basil, parsley and sage, along with fennel seed and red pepper flakes. It can be jarred and called upon as the perfect homemade pizza topper, or mixed with oil and stored in the fridge to be used as a sandwich spread or a soup additive.
And while you could pick up all these ingredients at the local supermarket or at Boyds farmers market stand, My Own Back Yard Herbs & Flowers, she would prefer you get your hands dirty with your own herb-growing venture.
I beat the drum for everyone to grow, she says, noting that whether you have space for a small container garden or a full-blown herb garden, the dietary and medicinal benefits are the same. Both options serve pollinators like bees and butterflies, too.
And, she says, once you start growing and drying your own herbs, theyre just much, much better than anything you can buy in a store. Store them away from light and heat and theyll stay fresh for a year or more.
Boyd weaves fresh, homegrown herbs into an eclectic variety of farmers market offerings, proving that the fruits of her labor can be manipulated to read sweet, savory, spicy, mild, zesty, woody, flowery or, well, herby.
Edible offerings include her top-selling Knubby Rosemary Shortbread cookies and the decadent, cocoa-y Chocolate Lavender Shortbread cookies. Theres the aforementioned Zesty Italian Herb Blend, along with a classic Herbes de Provence and the cleverly named Rosemary Karma (caramel) Corn. Mood and medicinal offerings include a comfrey salve made from sage and lavender and what Boyd calls the Attitude Adjustment Aromatherapy Blend, comprising rose geranium leaves, lavender flowers and lemon verbena. If youre feeling stressed or wretched, she promises, three good inhales of this mixture will change your tune in no time.
Using plants to lift your mood and improve your health is a lifestyle for Boyd, who began studying the benefits of herbs as a student at Bowling Green State University. She happened across Jeanne Roses Herbs and Things, considered by many to be the essential herbal reference book, and learned that a sage gargle can ease a scratchy or sore throat. When her next cold came around she put the natural remedy to the test and it worked.
Upon more reading and studying, Boyd learned that it was easy and economical to grow her own herbs. And I was hooked.
The whole idea that your food can be your medicine and your medicine can be your food. Herbs falls into this perfectly.
Boyd shared a few examples, such as that fennel seed is a known blood sugar stabilizer, while red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper can increase a persons metabolism. And, she says, oregano and basil key ingredients in her Zesty Italian Herb Blend can affect serotonin levels. We do tend to feel happy when were eating pizza, right?
The Findlay woman is happy to impart all this knowledge and more from behind her farmers market stand. She is a regular at the Bluffton market and a common fixture at Limas, although the Hancock County gathering has her heart.
Along with her husband, Dan, and Scott and Bobbie Sue Grenerth, Boyd serves as a volunteer manager for the local market. In this enthusiastic role, she helps gather vendor input and assemble marketing materials to help promote the event. She also helps organize quirky market activities such as the second season soup share being planned for the last Thursday in September. Here, shoppers and fellow vendors will be able to taste samples and share soup recipes.
The term second season, coined by Scott Grenerth, refers to the September and October market iterations. While local strawberries and asparagus have had their time in the sun, theyre being replaced by produce such as gourds, winter squash and pumpkins, fall greens, mums and apples. The market continues from 4-6 p.m. Thursdays at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts through Oct. 25.
And if youve never been to the market or if youre due for a visit Boyd urges you to make it a priority. Not only does the gathering provide a space for local vendors to share their goods, it also lends a platform for nonprofits to share information about their services. And it helps fuel the local economy.
Its a way for you to get up close to your community, the people who are growing and making homemade things for a living, Boyd says. Its a hands-on, open-air, different way to shop.
Zesty Italian Herb Blend
cup dried oregano (Turkestan)
cup dried sweet basil
cup dried parsley
cup dried sage
2 tablespoons fennel seed, crushed
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
Combine thoroughly and store in a glass jar away from heat and light.