GALVESTON — At the Sunshine Center, fresh herbs improve more than the taste of pasta or tea.
Growing herbs in Sunshine’s greenhouse provides their clients, developmentally disabled adults from throughout Galveston County, with the opportunity to improve job skills, independence and communication skills.
At the annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale at Sunshine’s
facility in Galveston on Saturday, the herbs offer even more avenues for improvement — the proceeds of the plant sale fund many of the clients’ outings throughout the year.
“The income from the plant sales goes into a fund we use for trips to events like the rodeo, for holiday parties and trips around town,” Sunshine operations manager Chris Jones said. “We want our clients to interact with the community as much as possible.”
The sale features many herbs grown from seed in the Sunshine greenhouse, including basil, rosemary, oregano and mint, supplemented with specialty herbs.
“We have lots of mint this year — apple mint, chocolate mint, peppermint and spearmint,” Jones said.
The sale also features ceramics and jewelry made by the more than 40 adults who attend the Sunshine Center where they also learn computer, social and life skills.
The Sunshine gardeners concentrate on varieties that do well in Galveston County’s climate. Rosemary, basil, cilantro and parsley are among the easiest to grow locally, but they also have grown herbs that are harder to find.
“We have regular sage, but we also grow pineapple sage,” Jones said, picking a fragrant leaf.
Some herbs take so well to the local climate that they outgrow their tidy herb bed and produce enough for the entire neighborhood.
Rosemary, a hardy perennial, can grow from a diminutive ball into a giant shrub towering over its gardeners in just a year or two.
Basil spreads its seeds for several feet in each direction, so it’s not uncommon for one or two plants to morph into a mini-crop growing throughout the flower bed and even in cracks in the sidewalk.
For those prolific producers, it’s good to have a few recipes on hand that call for a big quantity of herbs. When parsley starts multiplying like the brooms in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” making a big batch of tabbouleh salad will bring the garden back into balance by using eight or so cups of parsley, plus a cup or two of mint leaves.
While that may sound like an overwhelming quantity of parsley, American expatriate David Lebovitz, author of “Ready for Dessert,” “The Sweet Life in Paris” and other cookbooks, urges cooks to use grains sparingly and go for the green.
“Much of what gets called tabbouleh bears little resemblance to what Lebanese tabbouleh is. When I moved to France and began eating in traditional Lebanese restaurants, I was served bowls heaped with fresh herbs, a few tomato chunks, and very, very few bits of bulgur or cracked wheat,” he writes. “The cracked wheat is meant to be more of a garnish, and I’ve come to love traditional Lebanese tabbouleh, which is a green, herbal salad with a touch of spices.”
Lebovitz would probably love it even more if he had a garden of fresh herbs, as the rest of us can with a trip to the Sunshine Center.