Rundown of the 2012 Herb Society of America Educational Conference

shakespeare garden

The Shakespeare Garden at Festival Hill

I just got back from the 2012 HSA (Herb Society of America) Educational Conference. This year it was in Austin, Texas. I was excited to taste the food with herbs AND the food in vegan-friendly Austin.

Here is a quick report on what happened during my time there.

I took a pre-conference tour to Festival Hill, a fabulous learning and performance center about 1-1/2 hours outside of Austin. The performance hall was absolutely gorgeous, full of intricate woodwork panels. Even the chairs were music themed, with red fabric that had gold music symbols on it.

ceiling at Festival Hill

The intricate wooden star on the ceiling of the Festival Hill performance hall

After touring beautiful gardens, including a pharmacy garden, we ate a bountiful lunch. Some of the memorable dishes we had were a delicately spiced applesauce that was like a subtle, elegant dessert; Persian Lime Cream and Lime-Basil Cookies, and a Creamy Dill Salad Dressing.

Recipes for the Persian Lime Cream and the cookies are in Growing Southern Herbs, the cookbook and herb growing masterpiece by the late Madalene Hill, and her daughter, Gwen Barclay, who is still the chef there.

Then we stopped at the Antique Rose Emporium, where we saw numerous varieties of climbing, bush, and sprawling roses.

cat art

Whimsical garden cat art

The interesting takeaway for me was that adaptable, easy-to-grow rose varieties are plentiful. And that our idea of what a rose is has been warped by the commercial industry, which has bred out hardiness, adaptability, and fragrance in exchange for an upright head, the perfect bud, and long-lasting, cutting flowers for the floral industry.

I might just have to give rose-growing a try, after all of that…

The conference itself was a potpourri of sessions, everything about growing olive trees, to the “secret lives” of herbs (presented by mystery author Susan Wittig Albert, who has an entire series that uses herbs in them!), to the history of the rose. Since the Herb of the Year was the rose, several of the sessions featured them.

vegetables in phyllo

Vegetables in phyllo dough, with roasted red pepper sauce

We had delicious meals featuring herbs, got to sample chutneys and wild weeds, and even got some free herb plants and seeds. Unfortunately, agricultural restrictions meant I couldn’t bring the plants home.

purple bench in lucinda hutsons front garden

A purple bench, red Swiss chard, and birdbath in Lucinda Hutson's front yard garden

The post-conference tour I was on visited the gardens of two Austin residents, one of whom was the warm and vivacious Lucinda Hutson. Her charming purple cottage and the garden “rooms” outside were a wonder to behold. And we got to sample beverages that were beautifully presented, with purple and yellow pansies and slices of lemons, limes, and oranges floating in glass pitchers. Lucinda is the author of The Herb Garden Cookbook, which is full of gorgeous photographs and party food and drink recipes.

We also visited the American Botanical Council and saw the herb gardens there. The front gardens featured medicinal herbs, separated into body systems, such as those used for immunity or for reproductive and women’s health. They are also growing traditional Chinese medical herbs so that Chinese doctors will have a source for fresh herbs grown organically and locally.

I met some lovely people, and the cool part was that we were all excited about herbs, how to grow them, and especially, how to eat them!

The conference for 2013 is scheduled for St. Louis, Missouri in early June next year, and the Herb of the Year is elder, the stuff used in elderberry wine and cough syrups.

begonias at lucinda hutsons garden

Two simple hanging bags of begonias are striking against the blue wall in Lucinda Hutson's "Mermaid Garden"

I can highly recommend attending a conference if you are at all interested in herbs. I certainly plan to go to more of them in the future.

I’m going to be trying to duplicate some of the food we had, developing vegan recipes of those dishes, so watch for those in upcoming posts.

mango gazpacho

Refreshing Mango Gazpacho Soup

And I met a lovely woman whose grandson is a vegetarian, and she’s a bit at a loss as to what to cook for him. So I’ll be doing some introduction to vegan and vegetarian food ideas-types of post, too. Until then, go sniff some herbs!

4 Responses to Rundown of the 2012 Herb Society of America Educational Conference

  1. [...] met a lovely woman at this year’s Herb Society of America (HSA) Educational Conference. She told me her 20-something grandson had just become a vegetarian, and while some in the family [...]

  2. Cherie Colburn on June 14, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Hi Alina. Just stumbled across your site doing some research for a book I’m working on right now. I spoke at the Herb Conference. Hate I missed meeting you after seeing this! c:

  3. [...] making one of the vegan cashew cheese mixtures until lately. In Austin for this year’s Herb Society of America annual educational conference, I tasted a wrap from a food trailer that had portabella mushrooms, olives, rosemary, and melted [...]

  4. Grilled Green Beans | Almost Vegan In Paradise on June 22, 2012 at 12:24 am

    [...] of the best (and luckiest) things I did in Austin for this year’s annual Herb Society of America’s annual educational conference was to order the grilled beans at Condessa Restaurant. It’s an upscale Mexican restaurant, [...]

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