Growing herbs in a home garden is ever more popular today, which seems to be quite an excellent development of the 21st century. Herbs are easy to grow, great for adding flavor and variety to whatever's cooking (or even brewing) in the kitchen, and many are nutritional boosters as well. But as with so many lifestyle trends, this new habit is far from new. It's a sensible, welcome return to basics.

The people who formed the Aurora Colony, south of Portland, knew the basics. That's what their lives were all about. They were a hardy group of folks seeking religious freedom and, dare we say it, utopia. They'd arrived in the 1850s from the midwest (and, before that, from Europe), trudging along the Oregon Trail until they got to the Willamette Valley. They found land that seemed promising as a new place to live. Together, the group bought an existing grist mill, and formed the Aurora Colony.

They created a self-sufficient community, which included growing their own herbs.  The colony disbanded later in the 19th century, but today, the same thirty or so medicinal and culinary herbs are thriving in the good earth at the historic, preserved Old Aurora Colony. The garden has helpful signs for all the types of plants, explaining what they were used for then (and now).

Some are familiar to us (oregano, lavender, rosemary), others not so much (orris root? santolina? elecampane?). Take the Slide Show tour (click above) and discover.

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