by Lauren Johnson
When it comes to gardening, herbs do so much more than add culinary flair. Not only do they add kick to a dish, they offer health benefits for us and our environment, as well.
The Pennsylvania Herb and Garden Festival, held in York, kicks off its 19th year this spring. While it continues to focus on growing and using herbs, the festival has since expanded to include all aspects of gardening as a way to promote environmental stewardship—such as organic gardening and choosing plants that encourage pollinators and wildlife.
“I wanted to encompass every aspect of gardening that can help our environment,” says Sue Eggleston, president of the Herb and Garden Festival, which will be held April 7 and 8. “The festival is not only an opportunity to teach people about growing herbs, it’s also a chance to learn how to use them to take better care of yourself.”
The festival began as a one-day event but has expanded as interest has grown. The two-day event is now held at York Expo Center and includes nearly 140 vendors and participants, including nurseries, and also features cooking demonstrations, display gardens, workshops, artists, guest speakers and more.
“We are getting more and more people interested in herbs and container gardening from urban areas like Philadelphia, because they want to learn how to garden with limited space,” Eggleston says. “Container gardening is easy—anyone can do it, and they are easy to maintain.”
Last year, the event attracted more than 3,500 visitors from Pennsylvania and surrounding states, ranging from novice gardeners to horticulturists to industry professionals.
Another highlight of the festival is that the International Herb Association chooses an “herb of the year” to highlight and teach the public about. This year’s herb, cilantro, is a bit of a double feature as its leaves are used as an herb, and its seeds, known to cooks as coriander, are used as a spice.
Aside from the variety of herb and garden vendors, the workshops and speakers encourage learning and participation. Workshop topics this year range from learning how to plant your own container herb garden to how to blend your own herbal tisanes. Lectures vary from using aromatherapy for health to incorporating herbs to enhance your favorite meals.