Van Cortlandt House

Van Cortlandt House Museum

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The herb garden of the Van Cortlandt House, or the Colonial Revival Herb Garden as some people call it, was created sometime after the caretaker cottage’s addition to the Van Cortlandt House Museum in the year 1917. It is a sheltered space, in between the caretaker’s cottage and the Museum house, known to be extremely conducive for the cultivation of herbs.

The plants and herbs cultivated in the herb garden are the same ones that people used to grow and use back in the 18th century New York. Majority of colonial households of that time used to have a small kitchen garden, full of flowers, vegetables and herbs that were utilized in several different ways in the home. The main reason behind herbs’ cultivation was their everyday use in seasoning of dishes and for creating herbal home remedies. The boxwood lined planting beds and the formal brick paths of this herbal garden were installed later during the 20th century and don’t have the design features that are typical of the colonial era.

Some of the plants that are grown in this herb garden are:

Lavender – Also known as Lavandula Anugstifolia, lavender has several useful qualities which make it a regularly used ingredient in both medicines and food. We all know that flowers have been traditionally used as flavoring agents for creams, sweets, vinegar and jams. Apart from its crystallized form which is used for decoration, lavender flower’s water is used by many people in the form of an antiseptic and a skin toner. Tea prepared with lavender flowers is also commonly used for treating dizziness, halitosis, nausea, flatulence and anxiety -related headaches. The lavender essential oil is commonly used as a painkiller, sedative and an antiseptic in many alternative medicine forms.

Sage – Also known as Salvia Officinalis, this is an evergreen and highly aromatic shrub-like plant which is commonly associated with preparations of chicken and turkey dishes. The leaf of sage plant has a pretty strong taste which gets enhanced after drying out. Used occasionally for enhancing the digestibility of fatty meats and as a flavoring agent, sage plant goes very well with food items that have a very strong flavor. In fact, the tea prepared with sage leaves is considered an excellent blood and nerve tonic, and has antiseptic properties too. You can even rub fresh sage leaves over your teeth for instant whitening!

Rue - Also known as Ruta Graveolens or ‘Blue Beauty,’ this plant is another one of the evergreen shrubs. It features yellow summer flowers and has deeply divided blue leaves with an excellent aroma. Its leaves are bitter in taste and are extremely rich in iron and minerals. They help in bringing about a musky tangy taste to the food. Rue is also used medicinally in the form of a stimulant and for strengthening of capillaries. Furthermore, it also has a beneficial antispasmodic action which is helpful in treatment of colic, epilepsy and blood pressure. The dried leaves of this plant work as powerful germicide and insecticide for wounds.