Homeworker in a Fragrant Paradise: Verena Buchhammer’s Herbs from Kauns
“Working in the garden” does not sound very appealing; it calls to mind discipline, routine and tasks to be done. “Gardening” instead, conjures up images of growing and cultivating plants just for fun, like playing outdoors. There is something about just being out there in the garden that feels kind of elemental. Verena Buchhammer likes playing in the garden, too — “my kind of play,” she says. Her mother passed on her love for nature and gardening to Verena who has been working as a consultant with the Tirolean Chamber of Agriculture.
In 2002, the management of Kaunergrat Nature Park suggested Verena to create a herb garden in the grounds of her family’s organic farm, with the aim to inspire visitors. Verena was then a young mother of a baby girl and thus she was quick to take the opportunity to work at home. Together with Edgar, her husband, she began to provide a unique interactive experience for herb and plant lovers.
Visitors to the Herb Garden soon shared in Verena’s passion and knowledge for herbs. And they didn’t only want to see and smell, they also wanted to taste and buy. Thus, the once small garden turned into a business. Today, Verena grows an incredible selection of medicinal herbs and spices on five ares, which is an area of more than 500 square meters. At her lovely farm shop visitors find an exciting range of the best, freshest and quality local products, like fresh and dried herbs, finest herbal teas, syrups, liquors and fragrant lavender pillows to name but a few.
“The question I’m most often asked whilst working in the Herb Garden is: ‘How many kinds of herbs are there in the world? Hundreds? Thousands?’,” Verena laughs. “There are even more than that! And new varieties are added each year.” Verena is convinced that we only use a fraction of the herbs growing in the world. Everyone uses only the herbs he or she likes.
Plants that are prized for their scent, flavour, medicinal benefits or other assets are known as ‘herbs’. Herbs are usually used in foods, for making medicines and also for spiritual purposes. Since ancient times, the medicinal and culinary values of different herbs have been appreciated by almost every part of the world and among different cultures. Verena, however, does not use herbs for making medicines nor for spiritual purposes. “It often happened that seriously ill people asked me to cure their diseases with my herbs,” Verena tells me. “They really thought that herbs work wonders. But I am not allowed to take this responsibility for legal reasons—and I can’t agree to it on moral grounds.”
Verena’s passion and knowledge of herbs encapsulates in hardy varieties that thrive in our country. That includes classic herbs that are used in staples of Austrian cuisine, from Parsley and Chives to Oregano and Sage, to herbs that are lesser known and used, such as Winter Savoury and Lemon Thyme. However, there’s no accounting for taste, as Verena found out: “Our favourite family tea is a strong blend of Peppermint and Apple Mint, Thyme, Sage, Oregano and Elder and Elder and Mallow Flowers. But the majority of my customers prefers milder blends.”
Apart from herb gardening, the Buchhammer Family works on their fruit plantations and produces exquisite eaux de vie and liquors, jams and jellies and more delicacies. And last but not least, there are the Tuxer Rinder, an endangered Austrian breed of domestic cattle that call the organic Buchhammer Farm their home. The Buchhammers do everything possible to ensure the cattle have the happiest rearing possible, letting them graze on the lush pastures all through the year. This accounts for the excellent flavour, the juiciness and tenderness of the beef. Available as gourmet box the Buchhammer Farm beef is renowned for its eating qualities and flavour. And dinner is best rounded out with one of Verena’s wonderful herbal digestives.
Family owned and operated, Buchhammer Farm and Herb Garden is located in Kauns, at the end of the village towards Berneck Castle. The Herb Garden is open and fully accessible to the public 24/7 during the summer months. Shop hours vary and guided tours are available by appointment.