Sunny skies helped attract a constant crowd to Gahanna's Herb Day on May 21 at Creekside Park & Plaza and the Ohio Herb Education Center.

Sunny skies helped attract a constant crowd to Gahanna's Herb Day on May 21 at Creekside Park & Plaza and the Ohio Herb Education Center.

Gahanna resident Rhoda Ryan attended the annual celebration for the first time to purchase plants.

"I like to support the local economy," she said. "I thought they would have a good variety. I'm buying more than I planned."

Ryan said she traditionally grows lettuce, basil, dill and jalapeo peppers for her Tex-Mex recipes.

Debi Balog, a four-year OHEC volunteer, provided tips and answered questions from shoppers who were perusing the large variety of plants, including catnip, leeks, sage, sweet basil, oregano and mint.

"Everything is from my own observation and gardening over multiple years," Balog said. "I have a garden with about 20 herbs. I usually try something new every year to acquaint myself."

She said popular herbs purchased by shoppers over the weekend included rosemary and basil.

"We've also had lots of inquiry about garlic," Balog said.

Rosemary, used in marinades for meats and vegetables, is the official herb of Gahanna. The small shrublike plant is symbolic of friendship and remembrance.

Balog said herb enthusiasts make their plant selections based on their cooking styles. She said the common chives plant is a "no-fail plant."

"It's a hardy perennial," Balog said. "It freezes well. It can also be dried but would lose its color."

She said herbs are versatile.

"I strongly recommend interplanting," Balog said. "Chives and parsley make good borders."

Wendy Winkler, OHEC education coordinator, led a class called "Herb Education 101."

A handout noted that an herb is a plant lacking a permanent woody stem, and herbs are used for culinary, medicinal, aromatherapy, cleansing and ornamental purposes.

In recognizing horseradish as the herb of the year, Winkler passed around the strong-scented plant.

"We made horseradish ice cream," she said. "Next year's herb is rose, so that's a little more user friendly."

A student in her class sought tips about the commercial sale of herbs, as he doesn't have his own garden.

"Your smaller store will be fresher because there's more turnaround," she said. "People who sell directly from a distributor are generally fresher than a big store because of the time lapse."

Marysville resident Brenda Wisse sold herbs in various containers, as well as gourmet herb jellies like red rubin basil and spearmint.

"I worked in an office for 30 years, and then I retired to do what I really wanted," she said. "That's why my business is called 'It's My Thyme!' It's my time to do what I love."

She attends garden parties to talk about cooking with herbs. "The No. 1 herb is basil, then chives," Wisse said. "Everyone knows what to do with chives. Rosemary is the third (most popular)."

Gahanna-area youth will have an opportunity to learn more about herbs during the 2011 children's series at the OHEC from 2 to 4 p.m., coinciding with Second Saturdays at Creekside.

The three sessions include "What is an Herb?" "A Carnival of Color!" and "Herbs for Your Sweet Tooth."

In 1972, the state awarded Gahanna the title of "herb capital" through the effort of local civic leader Jane "Bunnie" Geroux and Gahanna Historical Society members.

For more about the herb center, visit