Herb Lovers Spread the Word

| August/September 2005

  • Creamy Bacon and Mushroom Saute with Linguine, from Haas and Bean's book, Basil to Thyme.

HICKORY, NORTH CAROLINA — Herb-loving regional notables Tim Haas and Jan Beane might have started from different directions on their journey toward appreciating herbs, but they’ve ended up in the same place. Now authors of several books about gardening and cooking with herbs, each less than a decade ago thought using herbs meant adding salt and pepper to a dish.

Then, almost simultaneously, they made an exciting discovery. Beane met a woman at her mother’s home one day who told her about using herbs in cooking and invited Beane over to see her herb garden. “I thought herbs came in jars and were imported from other countries. When she showed me her herb garden, it opened up a whole new world,” Beane says.

Meanwhile, Beane’s longtime friend Haas had been to another friend’s home for dinner and watched in amazement as the Louisiana woman sniffed anonymous plastic jars and threw pinches of dried greens into her pot of gumbo. “I asked how she knew what she was using, and she said by the smell,” Haas says. “It got me so intrigued that I started investigating herbs, using them, experimenting with them.”

The Start of a New Passion

Fortune brought these two friends’ paths together at just the right time: Haas called Beane shortly after discovering the world of herbs and they began talking about their newfound interest in the useful plants. “I was talking to her about one herb and she said, ‘Do you have an herb garden? I have one up on you,’” Haas says. He hadn’t considered the possibility of growing his own herbs, so he went to see Beane’s garden. “Of course, Jan never does anything on a small scale. It was this huge garden — and I had to have one.”

That was the beginning of a passion that has grown ever since. Haas and Beane started working together to get the word on herbs out to the world, or at least their corner of it. Both say they knew many people whose spice cabinet was limited to salt, pepper and maybe some cinnamon. “I even grew up on a farm,” Beane says, “but my grandfather raised fruits and vegetables. No one grew herbs. When I found out about them, I wanted to tell everybody.”

And that’s what they are doing. Their new book, Basil to Thyme (Champion Press, 2004), is the latest product of the education project they embarked upon. They began their quest in 1998 by creating, developing and hosting the PBS herbal cooking show, “Herbal Impressions with Tim and Jan.” Then they started doing guest appearances on other television and radio shows and eventually got their own morning radio show, “Waking up with Tim and Jan.” They toured and spoke at various seminars, hospitals and health-center workshops across the country.

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