Summer is peak season in the idyllic herb garden of Heidi Knappe: collecting, cooking, marveling. Who would have thought that there’s so much in plantain, woodruff and company?
By Ula Brunner
Curry in small clay pots, dandelions in the meadow, bishopswort in the flower beds, and there’s a scent of woodruff – when you enter Heidi Knappe’s garden, you are standing in the middle of a herb paradise. “Bishopswort is actually fought as a weed. But it helps with many diseases and also tastes wonderful. Everyone is always surprised when I explain that to them.”
For ten years, Heidi Knappe, born in 1966, has been passing on her knowledge of the ways of herbs to interested people. In her courses people collect, touch and learn together. Whether they produce a home medicine chest with tinctures and ointments, marinades or cosmetics – “It’s always about what grows here, what can you use? People should take the plants in their hands and be able recognize a herb.”
All about the herb | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
Seven course participants came this Saturday to her large garden on Schwielowsee, a lake near Potsdam, some for the second time. Zucchini kebabs, homemade herb paddies and potatoes are slowly cooking on an open fire. The motto is “men and women at the grill”. In the morning, after a short theoretical session, the group already sets off together to pick sage, tarragon, the indispensable bishopswort and even daisies. And Knappe explains how to make marinades, herbal dips, salads and pesto for a barbecue together.
Marinated vegetable kebabs on the grill | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
Even when she was still employed as a cook, she was interested in wild fruits and herbs. The decisive factor in turning this interest into a profession was ultimately her severely disabled son Konstantin: “He’s blind, but responds strongly to smells. That’s why I wanted to work with fragrances.” “Kräuter Heidi” – that’s her brand label – offers everything having to do with herbs: from wild herb vinegar and bishopswort syrup to spice dip. Her husband supports her by selling the products on markets in Potsdam and Berlin. In fact, she says, it’s a family business: “Together with my daughter and my husband, we used to fill and label the bottles and glasses in the kitchen in the evening, all in addition to our other jobs. That’s how it started.”
Melons can also be barbecued | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
She now holds her herbal courses throughout the year, with seasonally changing themes: making curry pastes in winter, mixing a green sauce with sorrel and chervil in April, marinating and barbecuing in summer.
Buffet in the countryside: salad with self-collected herbs | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
Heidi Knappe likes the role of a hostess. But if you observe her walking through the garden, preparing punch and quite casually passing on her herbal knowledge, you wonder if this woman ever has a moment’s rest. There is still a mountain of books waiting to be read, she admits. But in the evening she’s just too tired. “These have been exhausting days; I have to take care of the garden, the house, my son. But when the table is full, people are happy – and that’s fun."