Herb garden
Herb garden
Image: Penn State

Herb garden adds flavor to campus

Students with a keen sense of taste may have spotted a fresh difference in the food on campus lately.

That’s because Housing and Food Services is incorporating seasonings from the campus herb garden into its recipes. In its second season, the garden, on the East side of the Olmsted Building, grows traditional herbs – basil, dill, parsley, cilantro, and rosemary – and vegetables –  lettuce, onions, carrots, cucumbers, and beans, among others. 

Some of the seasonings are finding their way into assorted dishes in Stacks Market, the campus food court. Fresh flat-leaf parsley, oregano, and thyme are dried or frozen over the summer and used in the fall. “The herbs we dry here turn out better than anything you can get in a can,” said Greg Schiavoni, assistant director of Housing and Food Services.

Housing and Food Services recently served salad from the garden for a University Park function held on campus. Participants could taste the difference between the fresh salad and store-bought salad when given some of each, said Schiavoni. “It’s nice to use anything fresh and sustainable,” said Schiavoni. “We’re glad we can make a difference.” He would use more of the garden’s produce, but Stack’s is closed during much of the summer growing season.

The garden also serves as a food reserve available to the campus community; students, faculty and staff can freely take produce. Those who benefit from the produce are encouraged to keep others in mind and take only what they will use, and volunteer time to help maintain the garden. Each April, a volunteer work day held in conjunction with Earth Day kicks off the growing season.

The Penn State Harrisburg Conservation Committee landscaping subcommittee developed and maintains the garden. Following the theme of sustainability, the project showcases resource conservation by using reclaimed materials from campus locations.  “Some materials continue serving their original purpose while some have been altered to provide a completely different function,” said Jason Zubler, co-chair of the Conservation Committee.  Mulch from wood waste, slate floor tile stepping stones, compost bins constructed from scrap lumber and shipping pallets, and trash can planters are examples of recycled materials used in the garden.  Housing and Food Services purchased most of the garden’s plant materials.

The Conservation Committee leads several campus programs: Trash to Treasure sells for reuse students’ unwanted items at the end of the academic year; food waste composting, run in partnership with Housing and Food Services; and an office supply recycling program to reuse ink and toner cartridges, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, and chargers.

Read more about the herb garden.