If you happen to be in the Asheville, North Carolina area and are looking for a magical adventure, be sure to visit Sandy Mush Herb Nursery!
Many years ago when herb plants were just popping into notice yet still hard to come by, I first heard of Sandy Mush Herb Nursery during a MHS symposium. A speaker mentioned Sandy Mush Herb Nursery as “the” place to find herb plants and noted, as I remember, that Sandy Mush was quite a drive up a very steep one-lane road, carved out of the side of the mountain, and well worth your effort to get there!
During a January visit to Asheville when my husband Phil and I noticed Sandy Mush Herb Nursery on a map of West North Carolina heritage farms, our immediate reaction was “Let’s go!”
A quick internet check revealed Sandy Mush was just 23 miles away from us, a 42-minute drive, and a perfect outing, as we always like to go to herb farms! I called to ask if this was a good day to visit and the answer was the question “What kind of car do you have?” When I described our old 4-wheel drive Land Cruiser, I was told “You’ll be fine! Come right on!” Excited that we were on for the visit, I must say I was a bit anxious about the drive!
The surrounding North Carolina mountains were stunningly beautiful on this misty, rainy day. Using GPS directions, we wove through Big Sandy Mush Community nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, eventually reaching the turnoff sign welcoming visitors to Sandy Mush Herb Nursery. My palms became sweaty on this last part of our journey, as we headed up the steep mountain road, deeply rutted at times, with gravel in some places and just the bare mountain rock in others. We drove slowly as one must on a one-lane road like this, through the conifers and laurels of these mountains with the mist and light rain all building our anticipation of what we would find at the end of this road!
We did reach the end of the road, finding a home and lots of greenhouses set on the side of the mountain amidst the most stunning mountain stream with fabulous plants all around. I really wanted to set off exploring everything! A tractor was being moved to make a parking spot for us. Fairman Jayne, owner, greeted us and chatted about Sandy Mush Herb Nursery until his wife and co-owner Kate Jayne joined us after moving the tractor. It was Kate with whom I’d chatted on the phone. Fairman told us that over 40 years ago they chose this site because it was at the top of the mountain and provided the excellent water they would need for growing their herbs and other plants in the decades to come.
Kate took us through the greenhouses where we saw a huge selection of their 1600+ plant varieties: Every kind of culinary and medicinal herb you can imagine plus conifers, native plants, ground covers, plants for butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and so much more. Such a joy it was to see this immense collection, to be on this amazing property, and to spend such a delightful time talking plants with Kate! Every single bit of this trip was a soul-filling experience!
I cannot describe for you the awesomeness of the huge variety of oreganos, mountain mints, thyme, scented geraniums and so many more that Kate and Fairman and their helpers grow! You can check out the online handbook to get an idea! Each greenhouse was a treasure trove of all the plants we herbies love so much! I wanted one of everything I saw but luckily, I had made a short list from the online catalog which helped me limit my spontaneous choices just a bit.
I was thrilled when Kate found the two hardy orchids on my list: Putty Root and Catchfly! And I’m proud, too, of the Jewels of Opar, which brings back memories of our dear MHS member Angela Mullikin who shared her Jewels of Opar and other plants so freely. Added to my stash were several thymes, oreganos, mountain mints, and a Giant Solomon Seal. I have already begun my list for our next jaunt to Sandy Mush as we are frequently in Asheville to visit our family here.
If you are in West North Carolina, you really must visit Sandy Mush Herb Nursery. Do call ahead. Usual visiting days are Thursday through Saturday. While it might be said the road to get there is “daunting” I will say it is a most lovely drive! As Kate and Fairman say in their online catalog “We are surrounded by the beauty of our display gardens and the unparalleled splendor of Nature’s untouched mountain streams, hills, valleys, views, and abundant native flora and fauna.” As a person whose “cup is filled to overflowing” by the mountain side and by plants, I say “Do visit Sandy Mush Herb Nursery! You will be so glad you did!”
The Sandy Mush Herb Nursery
316 Surrett Cove Road
Leicester, NC 28748-5517
Much of their business is mail-order while visitors are very welcome to come to the nursery to make purchases. It’s best to call ahead first. Sandy Mush Herb Nursery also sells plants at several plant sales in the Asheville area.
Garbanzo, Rice, & Green Bean Salad
- 1 ½ cups garbanzo beans or chickpeas
- 2 cup brown rice
- 2 cups steamed green beans
- ½ cup celery finely chopped
- ½ cup chives or mild onions chopped
- ½ cup olive or salad oil
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 T fresh basil (or 1 t dried, basil)
- oregano, thyme, sage, or other favorite herbs to taste
- Juice and rind of 1 lemon or ¼ c chopped lemon balm
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ⅓ cup cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, parsley
- Cook the garbanzo beans and rice separately. Drain the garbanzo beans and combine with the rice.
- While all are warm add the green beans, celery, and the chives or onions.
- In ½ cup of olive oil sauté the garlic and other herbs. Add sautéed garlic and herbs to the garbanzo/rice mixture along with the lemon juice and rind (or chopped lemon balm), dry mustard, cider vinegar.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, a company of good friends, and sprinkle ALL with parsley!