The Stockbridge School of Agriculture is pleased to be able to offer a new class in the spring semester focused on the Renaissance Center Garden.  It is:

STOCKSCH 297 ER – Ethnobotany of the Renaissance

… will be taught by our head gardener and educator, Jennie Bergeron.  The syllabus for the class is presented below.  This is a two-credit class which will meet on Monday afternoons from 2:30pm – 4:25pm during the spring semester.

Course Description:  This course is a hands on learning experience rooted in the UMass Renaissance Center’s 16th century kitchen garden. Students explore historic gardens with a focus of Renaissance era plants and their cultural uses.

Student Learning Objectives:

  • Class discussions of culinary, medicinal and utilitarian use of plants in the Renaissance with a focus on the common population and comparing the same plants in modern times.
  • Students will grow Renaissance era plants in the greenhouse and participate in hands on outdoor learning at the UMass Renaissance Center’s 16th century kitchen garden and participate in ongoing plans for the garden project.
  • Students will complete a botanically focused project based on their own research. Course includes at least one field trip.

Text Books/ Library Readings: 

  • Hildegard’s Healing Plants: From Her Medieval Classic Physica by Hildegard Von Bingen, Bruce W. Hozeski
  • Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use by Rosemary Gladstar
  • Suggested: The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual by James Green

*Some reading TBA and may be provided to students from rare books.

Tentative Class Schedule

Week 1 – Introduction to Renaissance Gardens:

  • Historic gardens-the big picture
  • The UMass Renaissance Garden Project history/overview

Week 2 – Introduction to Renaissance Era Plants:

  • Exploring the Renaissance kitchen garden plants, choosing new plants for this season, herbal reading discussion
  • Renaissance plant use, the “supply closet” kitchen garden

Week 3 –  Medicine Making Practicum:

  • Overview of water and wine based infusions, herbal extracts and herbal infused oils, strewing herbs, herbal reading discussion
  • Herbal knowledge of yesterday and today

Week 4 – Greenhouse Practicum:

  • Heirloom plant propagation of Renaissance era plants
  • Seed planting

Week 5 – Historical Interpretation and Public Education

  • Our modern cultural lenses and  public teaching gardens
  • The importance of the past: historic garden interpretation and ethics

Week 6 – Greenhouse Practicum

  • Maintaining seedlings
  • Discussion of plant/garden research progress / reading discussion

 Week 7 – Cooking in the Renaissance

  • Pottage and other food staples of the Renaissance
  • Food diversity in the garden / reading discussion

Week 8 – Greenhouse Practicum:

  • Maintaining seedlings
  • Project Outlines Due / Discussion of plant/garden research progress / reading discussion

Week 9 – Garden Practicum

  • Hands on garden education and design maintenance / put reading into practice

Week 10- Garden Practicum

  • Preparing spring soil, garden education and design maintenance

 Week 11 – Field Trip –Garden Compare and Contrast (class time may change for field trip)

  • Old Deerfield Historic Garden or Other
  • Final Project discussion

Week 12 – Final Project Presentations and or Garden Practicum

  • Renaissance plant/garden projects
  • Hands on garden education

Week 13 – Final Project Presentations

  • Renaissance plant/garden projects continued
  • Hands on garden education
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