A fresh perspective on growing and drying healing herbs

Herbs by UlrikeToday’s piece is by Aubrey Hodapp, 21, a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio (my alma mater), where all students spend part of the years working at co-op jobs.

Aubrey Hodapp at work on the Antioch Farm

Aubrey Hodapp at work on the Antioch Farm

As the new spring quarter begins there is much growing to be done both on the Antioch Farm and in the classroom. Looking back on my Antioch Farm co-op, last spring, I realize how much I have grown as a person and as a student interested in herbal medicine for one’s well-being.

While working on the farm, I learned about the basic methods of organic farming and sustainable agriculture. After three months, I was given the opportunity, much to my delight, to be the community herb dryer on campus. My job is to harvest and dry herbs that are grown on the farm and deliver them to the dining halls where students can have access to locally grown, organic herbal tea.

During my most recent co-op last winter with a local herbalist, I was able to study the medicinal properties of herbs and learn about the various methods of preparing herbal remedies. I also learned about herbal remedies during my Global Seminar in Health class where my final project focused on making herbal medicine.

Don't have a garden? Grow herbs on your porch or balcony....

Don’t have a garden? Grow herbs on your porch or balcony….

The medicinal and culinary herbs grown on the Antioch Farm include spearmint, peppermint, catnip, dandelion, echinacea, valerian, stinging nettle, yarrow, thyme, oregano, raspberry leaf, comfrey, and wormwood. Most of these medicinal herbs are useful for aiding the nervous, digestive or immune systems of the body.

Many herbs have medicinal value

Here is a list of some selected herbs and their medicinal properties:

  • Spearmint and peppermint are digestive aids and help relieve stress.
  • Dandelion helps eliminate toxins from the body.
  • Stinging nettle relieves allergies and builds healthy blood due to its high iron content.
  • Catnip helps to relieve pain and stress and acts as a mild sedative.
  • Echinacea helps to build a healthy immune system.
  • ...or in a box near a sunny window!

    …or in a box near a sunny window! (These photos are from Flickr Creative Commons — the top one by Suzette, the one above by Vanla.)

    Comfrey and wormwood are especially useful for animals so it is helpful to have them growing on the farm if the sheep encounter ailments.

As a student and lover of nature, I am especially interested in herbal medicine because it benefits both the body and Earth. Using herbal remedies, such as teas, tinctures, infusions, and topical herbal treatments, is a great way to help heal your body and avoid the harsh chemicals found in many commercial products. And as long as we make sure to replenish what we take from Earth, a mutual respect and balance is maintained.

With spring continuing to flourish on the Antioch Farm, I look forward to a new quarter of growing as a student, and assisting the Antioch community with its herbal healing needs.

Editor’s note: This recipe came from National Public Radio, which posted it as part of a story about the soaring cost of pine nuts, which are the nuts traditionally used in pesto. I’ve tried this recipe, and it was delicious. The basil flavor is so strong that it was hard to tell the difference between this and tradition pine nut pesto.

Pasta with Pistachio Pesto

Vegetarian Dishes

Pasta with Pistachio Pesto


  • ½ cup shelled, peeled, unsalted pistachios, plus a handful, roughly chopped, reserved for scattering over each portion
  • 3 Tbs. lightly toasted, blanched almonds
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup (packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper
  • 1 lb. imported Italian fusilli or other pasta
  • 2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano or grana padano cheese, plus additional for the table


  1. In a food processor, combine the pistachios, almonds, basil, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Process, pulsing every few seconds until the mixture is blended but still has a slightly grainy consistency.Take care not to over-grind to avoid a paste-like result.
  3. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the pesto to a small mixing bowl.
  4. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto and chill until you are ready to use it. (For best results, use it within several hours of preparing.*)
  5. Bring 5 quarts water to a rolling boil.
  6. Add the salt and the pasta at the same time. Cook precisely as indicated on the package directions.
  7. Just before draining, set aside ½ cup of the pasta cooking water
  8. Drain the pasta; while it is still dripping wet, return it to the pan.
  9. Add the pesto and the 3 tablespoons grated cheese, blending well with a wooden spoon and working in a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking water or more, if needed, to loosen up the sauce and coat the pasta evenly.
  10. Transfer to individual plates and scatter the chopped pistachios over each. Pass additional grated cheese at the table.


*If you need to make the pesto far in advance, at this point transfer the pesto to a freezer container and cover with a thin film of olive oil; press plastic wrap directly on the surface and seal the container. When ready to use, thaw and continue with the rest of the recipe.