Here and There: Culinary Herbs at the Ravenhill Herb Farm

This Canadian herb farm specializes in culinary delights created with home-grown herbs.

| April/May 2001

  • Lovage and bronze fennel thrive in the fertile earth at Ravenhill.
  • Noel Richardson, foreground, lunches with a visitor.
  • A totem pole carved in cedar by a local artisan stands guard over Ravenhill Herb Farm.

Recipe: Baked Cod with Feta Cheese and Oregano  

In the fertile soil of southern Vancouver Island, a couple has built a dream garden to share with others.

There is no love sincerer than the love of food,” wrote George Bernard Shaw, and it was that love that impelled librarian and teacher Noel Richardson and her geologist husband, Andrew Yeoman, to develop Ravenhill Herb Farm on the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

Twenty years ago, Noel and Andrew lived in Calgary, Alberta, where they maintained a small vegetable and herb garden even though the winters were long and cold. When a successful career as an oil and gas investment adviser enabled Andrew to take early retirement, the couple headed for Vancouver Island, where Noel was raised. Its hills remind Andrew of his native Yorkshire, England.

A gardener’s paradise

Southern Vancouver Island dips south of the 49th parallel, which otherwise forms the U.S.-Canadian border for more than 3,000 miles. The island’s latitude, proximity to the ocean, and location in the rain shadow of Washington State’s Olympic Mountains put the Saanich Peninsula in USDA Zone 8. The word Saanich means “fertile earth” in the language of the local Salish Indians; indeed, the island’s favorable climate and productive soil make gardening a passion for many residents.

From October to May, Ravenhill receives an average of 35 inches of rain. The soil is so easily worked that Andrew doesn’t even own a rototiller. He tills, weeds, and waters by hand for about an hour a day during the summer.

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