A few Irish-style downpours last Saturday morning didn’t dampen my resolve to take a field trip I’d been planning. If you like herbs and cupcakes, let’s check out two spots in Gahanna that you should visit!
In 1972, the Ohio state legislature declared Gahanna the herb capital of Ohio. To celebrate this designation, the City of Gahanna planted several themed municipal gardens next to City Hall at 206 South Hamilton Road. There, you can stroll through Biblical, scented, shade, meditative, medicinal and culinary gardens.
Gahanna is also home to the Ohio Herb Education Center. The center provides information about how to use herbs in the kitchen, garden and home by offering classes, workshops, publications and products. It’s located in the Nafzger-Miller House, a National Register of Historic Places listing that was built in 1855 and added to in 1910.
The charm of this place begins outside, where clever plantings of herbs and flowers sprout from vintage chairs, wheelbarrows and water pumps.
Around 1880, a butcher shop was constructed beside the north end of the house. Later, it became a doctor’s office, then a voting booth. During the time of the house’s 1910 renovation, this structure was moved to the rear of the property. Recently, the City of Gahanna converted the building into an herb drying shed.
Inside, repurposed doors serve as herb drying tables…
and you can admire an array of dried herbal wreaths.
Then, walk around to the front of the building, climb two gigantic stone steps, check out the action on Mill Street from wicker rockers on the front porch, and step inside to experience the cozy ambience of the center’s gift shop. Items for sale include locally produced honey; herbal teas, candles, soaps and lotions; packaged dry-ingredient soups; and books on gardening, cooking and crafting with herbs. For those wanting to try an indoor herb garden, the “Garden in a Bag” offers a choice of a culinary herb; put it in the kitchen, add water, and soon you’ll be snipping it to add to your favorite dishes.
Last Saturday was Herb Day at the center. In the kitchen, a volunteer was on hand to help children make Mother’s Day herbal bath soaks, herbal drawer sachets, and lavender soap for a small fee. The parlor was the site of several presentations covering topics such as identifying native plants that have medicinal properties; sharing historical tales about how herbs have been used; incorporating herbs into everyday cooking; making snacks with herbs; and creating an herbal whisk broom after the dried leaves of herbs are taken off the stem. Other recent classes at the center include using herbs to help relieve dry skin, adding herbs as a supplement to food, building an herbal wellness kit, preparing herbal tonics, and using herbs to create home remedies.
My next destination was the Ohio Herb Education Center’s next-door neighbor: Koko Tea Salon and Bakery.
Walk into the pastel-decorated interior of this house that’s over 100 years old, and you’ll think you’ve been transported to a Parisian patisserie. Amid the lush wallpapers, crystal chandeliers and vintage decorations, tins containing 40 different custom blends of teas are perched on a mantel.
Some glass display cases are filled with plates of cleverly named chocolate truffles, like a chai-spiced caramel fudge called“Chaikovsky.” Other cases present a tempting lineup of cupcakes, cake pops and the most beautiful macarons I’ve seen.
Koko means “sweet” in Hawaiian, reflecting the owner’s Hawaiian heritage. And sweet indeed are the treats you can either take home or enjoy right there. Koko offers dozens of different kinds of cupcakes. First-time visitors are treated to complimentary samples of Koko’s red velvet cupcake. Colored with the juices of hand-squeezed raspberries and beets, this popular selection was featured on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” After I chose three cupcakes — one made with Madagascar vanilla beans, another with hand-picked berries topped with a swirl of lavender-infused frosting, and the third, a coconut-lover’s delight featuring both coconut milk and shredded coconut — they were tucked into a beautiful turquoise paper box for the trip home. Wow, did they taste like more!