By Becky Streeter
For most, an herb garden will suffice. Some only have a small section of their garden devoted to their favorite herbs. For Tony DiMaggio, an herb enthusiast, well … he has an entire herb farm. Everything grown on Sacred Blossom Farm, DiMaggio’s two acre herb field in Mondovi, is eventually dried and delicately placed into sensational blends of tea designed to invigorate or relax anyone who enjoys a sip.
Before settling down on Sacred Blossom Farm, DiMaggio traveled from Canada to Costa Rica studying all kinds of farming practices. He noticed a void in the medicinal herb market. “There are a lot of people out there producing medium quality herbs and marketing multiple products … tea, lotions, soaps, et cetera,” he said. “I figure that anything you do, you have to do it really, really well. So instead of doing a hundred different things with my herbs, I’m just trying to do one thing really well: herbal tea.”
Upon arriving at Sacred Blossom, DiMaggio handed me a steaming cup of his delicious Angel tea and we headed out for a tour of the land. With a light (sometimes moderate) rain and his friendly little black and white cat named Panda in tow, I couldn’t think of a better setting to learn about the art of growing herbs for tea.
DiMaggio seeks the best methods to grow herbs for maximum potency. According to DiMaggio, studies show that wild-grown herbs are more potent than cultivated. Many different species of plants intermingle in the wild, and this enhances biological activity in the soil. Also, plants aren’t coddled with too much irrigation and fertilizer as they are on farms. DiMaggio farms using these concepts on his one-of-a-kind herb farm. A row of California poppies mixed in between cornflower, red clover next to Echinacea, elderberry bushes under black walnuts. It’s survival of the fittest, except that the majority of the herbs survive and produce a plentiful harvest.
DiMaggio owns the largest herb drier for diversified herb production in the Midwest. This means he can wait for the ideal time to harvest his crop and then dry it slowly at low temperatures, preserving the flavor and medicinal properties of each plant. The herbs are then sorted into one of three blends: Dream, an extremely potent bedtime tea containing California poppy grown in sandy loam soil (never irrigated, just like in the wild); Tiger, a caffeine-free replacement for morning coffee, loaded with ginseng; and Angel, a remarkably delicious tea for all other occasions.“I want to nourish people and connect them to the herbs,” DiMaggio said. “My farm goal for this year is better, not bigger. Do everything a little bit better, from efficiency to producing the highest quality herbs I can grow. I’m always learning, every day.”
Angel, Dream and Tiger are available at Just Local Foods, the Goat Coffee House, Grand Ave Café, and Mother Nature’s Foods. You can also purchase from him online at www.SacredBlossomFarm.com