We have our share of unique food festivals in South Jersey. In Salem, they fry up the muskrats. Vineland gives dandelions their due. West Cape May goes all out to pay tribute to the lima bean. And at the end of May, Triple Oaks Nursery in Landisville holds a little herby hootenanny.
The Herb Festival Weekend at Triple Oaks is most certainly unique. Located on a tributary to the ‘wild and scenic’ Maurice River (and please, it is pronounced ‘Morris’), Triple Oaks Nursery is a haven for you herb-lovers out there. The signs says over 65 varieties, and they are not kidding. We all have heard the notion that we need to stop and smell the roses. Well, with all the many wonderful varieties at Triple Oaks, we were compelled to stop frequently and smell the herbs. And purchase a few as well.
The festival itself is a small affair, more like a large family barbecue than a full-blown event. But I liked the intimacy of it, because it allowed us to be able to talk to the employees, volunteers and vendors and have a conversation without having to shout. We got a chance to say hello to Lorriane Keifer, co-founder of Triple Oaks and still very active in teaching about herbs and gardening. And it allowed us to sample some things without much effort. We tried some May wine, which tasted like drinking in a garden – in a good way. Very floral and earthy. At one table, a gentlemen was making some mighty fine mojitos with fresh herbs and Jersey strawberries. It took a lot of effort to not go back for seconds and ninths. There was also a sexy little honey cake (a Martha Stewart recipe, no less) made with some local honey. So moist and sweet.
One vendor that we certainly enjoyed meeting was Richard DeMarco of Greenwich Teaburner’s Tea. If you thought that the Boston Tea Party was the only tea party in colonial times, think again. On December 22, 1774, inspired by the actions in Boston, forty patriots dressed as Native Americans and burned tea on a British ship. Greenwich (and please, it is pronounced GREEN-wich) is a town filled with historical coolness; even its main street, Ye Greate Street, has held that name since 1684. Getting back to the 21st Century, Richard DeMarco was born and raised in Cumberland County, and is very much about the history of the area and using local natural ingredients. Their tea blends use as much locally-produced products as possible, and they are working on growing more of their own tea leaves. Greenwich Teaburner’s Tea does not have a physical store, but they do make many festival appearances as well as sell their teas online. Check out their website for more details.
And so, with Cumberland County tea and some Atlantic County plants and herbs in tow, we headed back down Route 47 to US 40, passing farm stands and roadside BBQ stops…and couldn’t resist picking up a few fresh Jersey strawberries (the last of the season), and some jam made with this year’s berries. Yum. You can read about our heavenly little pit stop at General Barbecue here, if you missed it. The point is, in this state, it doesn’t take much to plan a grand day out. So, yeah: you can always take a quick ride in order to stop and smell the roses. Or the berries. Or the barbecue. Or the tomatoes, or the corn…