GALVESTON — Many cooks know that fresh herbs can add an interesting background note to salads, cooked foods and even desserts.

Two events at Moody Gardens will bring herbs out of the background onto center stage during the Gulf Coast Herb Fair and at an elegant herb-accented dinner.

The Friends of Moody Gardens will open the Gulf Coast Herb Fair with a Blessing of the Garden at 9:30 a.m. March 5.

After the outdoor blessing, fair activities move indoors to the atrium of the Moody Gardens Visitors Center, where vendors and horticulture educators will have a wide array of herb plants, books, food and gift items for sale.

On March 6, the Friends of Moody Gardens will host a special herb dinner in the Viewfinder Room of the Moody Gardens Hotel.

Each course of the dinner designed by the hotel’s Executive Chef Urs Schmid, who has been named Chef of the Year by the Texas Chef’s Association and awarded a Bronze Star from the Galveston chapter of the Chaine de Rotisseurs, showcases garden herbs.

Limited seating is available for the dinner, which begins with potato and leek soup enhanced with marjoram and a salad dressed with chives, parsley and tarragon.

Grilled sirloin with herb butter and Shrimp Dejonge bring a medley of herbs to the main course, accompanied by rosemary potatoes and zucchini and tomatoes with basil.

Flambéed strawberries and mint served over ice cream will be the dramatic finale of the dinner.

“To make the meal even more special, Chef Urs is going to join us in the dining room and talk to us about using herbs,” said Mary Lou Kelso, president of the Friends of Moody Gardens.

“It’s a rare opportunity to eat such wonderful food and hear him explain more about it at the same time.”

An informative speaker also is on tap for the luncheon during the Gulf Coast Herb Fair. Chris Weisinger, known to gardeners and social historians throughout the country as The Bulb Hunter, will speak on “The Quest for Southern Heirlooms.”

Weisinger, a graduate of Texas A&M, has written two books on his crusade to find and popularize regional, low-maintenance plants.

Both the herb dinner and the luncheon are fundraising events for the Friends of Moody Gardens, which works year-round to make the plants and animals of Moody Gardens more accessible to children and underserved groups in the community.

“For many years, the dues and contributions of the friends brought the third-graders of Galveston to the Aquarium (Pyramid),” Kelso said. “Then, we added a trip to the Rainforest (Pyramid) for all the fifth-graders.”

Last year’s Herb Fair also funded a new program for the Friends.

“Our new outreach, the Moody Gardens Traveling Rainforest Roadshow, goes to all the prekindergarten 3- and 4-year-olds in Galveston, as well as to UTMB Pediatric Hospital, Shriners’ Hospital, the Meridian, Holland House, Ronald McDonald House, The Oaks and Gulf Breeze,” Kelso said.

“We’re so proud of all the folks in the community we served in one year, who perhaps would not have had a chance to see this incredible facility.”

“The Friends of Moody Gardens will be selling two cookbooks by Renee Shepherd, the founder of Renee’s Garden seed company, for the special price of $10 each,” Kelso said. “They are simply awesome.”

Shepherd also donated packets of her seeds as a gift for those attending the luncheon.

At a glance

WHAT: Gulf Coast Herb Fair

WHO: Friends of Moody Gardens

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 5

WHERE: Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd., in Galveston

COST: Free

DETAILS: Plants, books and gifts will be available for purchase

WHAT: Special herb luncheon

WHO: Friends of Moody Gardens

WHEN: March 5

WHERE: Viewfinder Room of the Moody Gardens Hotel

DETAILS: Chris Weisinger, known to gardeners and social historians throughout the country as The Bulb Hunter, will speak on “The Quest for Southern Heirlooms”

COST: $35 per person

RESERVATIONS: Call Mary Lou Kelso, 409-744-4716 or email

WHAT: Special herb dinner with Chef Urs Schmid

WHO: Friends of Moody Gardens

WHEN: March 6

WHERE: Viewfinder Room of the Moody Gardens Hotel

DETAILS: Moody Gardens’ Executive Chef Urs Schmid designed each course of the dinner. Schmid will join guests and discuss using herbs in cooking.

COST: $60 per person

RESERVATIONS: Call Mary Lou Kelso, 409-744-4716, or email

Cherry Tomato Salsa

MAKES: 3 cups

1-2 cloves garlic

12 cup onion, coarsely chopped

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

12 teaspoon ground cumin

112 teaspoons fresh lemon thyme, chopped

112 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped

12 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 14-inch dice

14 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor, process the garlic until minced. Add the onion and process until finely chopped. Add tomatoes, cumin, lemon thyme, dill, oregano and lemon juice. Process only until the mixture is chunky.

Transfer the tomato mixture to a bowl. Chop the bell pepper and cilantro by hand and add to the tomato mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow flavors to blend. Drain off excess liquid before serving.

(SOURCE: Recipe from “Recipes from a Kitchen Garden,” by Renee Shepherd and Fran Raboff)

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