Mother Earth Living

Here & There: Herb Garden Helps Feed the Poor

By Suzanne Hall
December/January 2007
Add to My MSN

Chef Timothy Tucker serves fresh herbs and healthy dishes at the Salvation Army Center of Hope in Louisville, Kentucky.
Photo by Suzanne Hall

Content Tools

Related Content

In The News: Cantaloupe Linked to the Deadliest Listeria Outbreak in a Decade

Get all the information about how to protect yourself from the latest listeria outbreak.

Tips for Used-Furniture Shopping

Jessica offers her top tips for shopping for used and antique home furnishings.

Pumpkins, Post-Halloween

Halloween is over and there are pumpkins still sitting in your living room. What should you do with ...

Feed Your Kids Healthy Back-to-School Meals with Rush Bowls

Rush Bowls are an all-natural blend of fruit and other natural ingredients frozen to perfection and ...

Chef Timothy Tucker's Herbal Recipes: 

• Oven-Roasted Herbed Tomatoes
• Garlic and Lemon Thyme Mashed Potatoes
• Cauliflower Casserole
• Sage Gravy 

To Chef Timothy Tucker, there’s more to feeding the poor than filling their stomachs. “Food is what makes people healthy or sick, feel good or feel bad. Good food can change people’s lives,” he says.

And to Tucker, good food includes herbs. One of the first things he did after signing on as chef at the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope in Louisville, Kentucky, in January 2005, was start an herb garden. “We had the space and since herbs fit right in with my concept of healthful cooking, I decided to give it a try,” he says. Since then, the garden has flourished and now provides the center’s kitchen with about a dozen fresh herbs, plus hot peppers and tomatoes.

Getting Into Giving

Tucker has worked hard for his chef credentials: After earning a culinary degree from Sullivan University in Louisville, he worked in restaurants around the country, including Dean Fearing’s well-known Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. He eventually made his way back to Louisville. When he learned that the Center of Hope, which provides shelter for about 200 people a night and meals for 300 to 400 each day, was looking for a cook, he “threw on an old jacket and went to eat there,” he says. “They fed me two precooked biscuits and some sour-tasting clam chowder. That was it. I knew I had to work there and try to help people by feeding them healthful, good-tasting food.”

Like most cooks who feed the poor and homeless, Tucker relies mainly on donated food. “About 90 percent of our food is donated. We’re lucky to have alliances with Whole Foods and other natural foods producers so we get a lot fresh fruits and vegetables, but it’s always a grab bag. We never know what we are going to get,” he says.

Fresh Herbs For Flavor

Fresh herbs provide a way to jazz up the flavors of often inexpensive ingredients. He can flavor a salad of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes with dill; season chicken with fresh thyme; or enhance a mushroom and barley soup with fresh sage. To perk up the flavor of thick slices of roasted turkey roll, he tops them with homemade sage gravy.

Tucker became a big fan of cilantro while working in Texas. “A lot of dishes in the Southwest also are flavored with lemon,” he says. Tucker grows lemon thyme and lemon verbena and uses lemongrass when he can get it. “Basil,” he says, “is a wonderful herb. It smells so good, you want to roll in it. We grow several kinds of oregano and combine them to make tomato sauce for our ravioli or other pasta dishes. I also like to use Mexican oregano in chili.” That chili, created by Tucker and his volunteer cooks, won second place in a local chili-cooking competition.

Looking To The Future

In the summer of 2005, the herb garden became a component of the center’s culinary training program. With the help of faculty members at Sullivan University, Tucker and others at the center developed a 10-week, 15-hour-a-week training program for homeless people. “Our goal was to give them basic kitchen skills and an understanding of how to cook and eat healthfully. They were taught sanitation and safety and worked in the kitchen and in the garden,” he says. The first class had 10 students. A second one held in early 2006 had 20.

What’s ahead for Chef Tucker and the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope? “My biggest dream right now is to build a greenhouse, so we can grow herbs and other foods year round,” Tucker says.

An enthusiastic cook, freelance writer Suzanne Hall keeps her pantry stocked with fresh and dried herbs.

Previous | 1 | 2 | Next

Post a comment below.


Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.