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Growing a garden of Eden (and eatin)
Let your garden be inspired by Scriptures from long ago
Rosemary, parsley, garlic and basil were all used during biblical times. - photo by Tom Reed

In the beginning, God created gardens. And they would come to produce more than tempting fruit for Adam and Eve.

There was basil, seen after the resurrection, growing around Jesus' tomb. There was horehound "Marrubium," a musky, bitter-tasting herb used by Jews during Passover.

All told, the Bible mentions more than 66 herbs. Some, such as thistles, might seem more like weeds than herbs, but they all tell stories. According to the Rev. Keith Amborn, a pastor at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wis., thistles are a reminder of God cursing the ground because of Adam's sin, referencing Genesis 3:18.

"These plants are tied to biblical times. The people of biblical times learned to use them for food and medicine. They are the living link between us and the people of distant times," Amborn said. "The onion and leek, the dill, mint and rue of our lives were also part of the everyday lives of the Bible people."

Sandra Easterbrooks Cratty, co-owner of Plant City Bonsais in North Hall, which sells about 50 varieties of organic herbs, said their smells or essential oils had many uses in biblical times.

For example, mint is not only good for digestion even today, but thousands of years ago people used the plant to ward off smells brought on by poor sanitation, Cratty said.

"Mint was hung in the doorways and strewn on the floors back in biblical times," she said.

Rosemary is another herb that carries qualities also used generations ago.

"Rosemary is considered a tree of remembrance; it helps clear the mind," Cratty said. "And the essential oil is very antiseptic. Herbs have their essential oils that create a lot of their healing, powerful qualities."

Want to grow your own biblical-based herb garden?

Flowery Branch resident Paul Barnes, who has an extensive garden in his filled-in swimming pool, said he grows nearly a dozen different herbs, all of which he and his wife use in the kitchen.

He said his herb success comes not only from a green thumb - evident also from the abundant vegetables, trumpet flowers, roses and elephant ears also growing in his garden - but also a rich soil and plenty of water from his rain barrels.

"I dumped a bunch of potting soil in there that said it would fertilize it for three months. I dumped about 15 bags of that in there and filled it all in good. And it made stuff grow," Barnes said. "Plus, I keep it watered. I've got about 11 55-gallon drums here behind my house, and that's what I use to water my garden with."

Some of Barnes' herbs grow over the winter, while others come back ever year. His cilantro, for example, comes after winter.

"My wife makes a real good recipe, some dip - I can't eat it because it's a little spicy," he added. "And we put some in some spaghetti; we chop some chives up, different things."

Cratty added that herbs can survive the winter if they are grown in pots and can be taken indoors during cold spells, or if they are planted in a place sheltered from winter's cold winds.

"They're mostly grown in the Mediterranean areas but they can be grown here if they're in a pot or on the side of a house that doesn't get any wind," Cratty said. "But they can be grown in pots and grown year-round."

Three of the most important events in the Bible took place in a garden, Amborn pointed out. According to the creation story, sin entered the world when the serpent (Satan) tempted Eve to eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the New Testament, Jesus was strengthened in his commitment to go to the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane. After his crucifixion, Jesus was placed in a tomb in a garden.

Amborn's garden is actually a collection of mini-gardens throughout the spacious backyard. Each has a theme, from the "back door herb garden" near the back door of the parsonage to the "patio garden," the "hummingbird garden" and the "wattle fence" area - a chain-link fence interwoven with branches, like a basket weave. Historically, a wattle fence enclosed animals, orchards and gardens.

And don't worry if your garden space has an apple tree in it.

The fruit of temptation, by the way, wasn't an apple, Amborn said, because there weren't any apples in the Holy Land. "It was either an apricot, an orange or a pomegranate."

Karen Herzog from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel contributed to this report

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