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On-Campus Plant Collection Home to Healing Herbs by JAMIE CREAMER

A College of Agriculture agronomist who established a research plot on the Auburn University campus eight years ago to evaluate medicinal plants as high-value alternative crops for Alabama growers has converted the verdant patch into a teaching and demonstration garden that’s open to the public. Nestled between two stands of sugar cane on the agronomy farm off Woodfield Drive, the 75- by 40-foot Medicinal Plant Collection boasts more than three dozen different species and varieties of plants that have healing properties, from coneflowers and chamomile to licorice and lemongrass. From late spring through summer, the garden that crop, soil and environmental sciences department professor Dennis Shannon began in 2006 with just a handful of plant species is a kaleidoscope of colors and textures. Shannon credits the plant collection’s hearty appearance to Tia Gonzalez, a local herbal guru who manages the garden, more as a labor of love than anything else. Working limited hours through the university’s temporary employment services, Gonzalez makes the most of every second she’s on the clock, planting, weeding, watering, pruning, nurturing and harvesting. “While it is not a formal herb garden, our collection is the only representation of medicinal or otherwise useful herbs on campus,” Gonzalez says. “And here we are, a land-grant college. My hat’s off to Dr. Shannon for finding means to keep the garden going.” Gonzalez is a walking encyclopedia on the healing properties of plants, and from May 15 until fall, she will be sharing herb trivia the third Thursday of every month, from 2 to 3 p.m., as she leads guided tours of the garden. For those who visit the site on their own, Shannon and Gonzalez have installed a document box at the garden that contains copies of a list of every plant in the collection and its medicinal uses. Curcuma longa, commonly known as turmeric, is the hottest medicinal plant of late because of the anti-infection, anti-inflammatory, antacid and anti-cancer properties attributed to it. And, in fact, Shannon and Gonzalez will be expanding the original collection this spring to include a nonadjacent 1,200-square-foot plot devoted solely to turmeric. Shannon says a dietary supplements manufacturer has been analyzing the curcumin

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE With waist-high turmeric as a backdrop, Tia Gonzalez and Dennis Shannon discuss the various species growing in the Auburn University Medicinal Plant Collection.

content in turmeric plants from the Auburn collection in recent months and has shown interest in buying organically grown turmeric from Alabama growers if the curcumin level is high enough. In the past couple of years, faculty from across campus as well as from Tuskegee and Jacksonville State universities have brought their classes to tour the garden. This fall, Barbara Kemppainen, professor of pharmacology in College of Veterinary Medicine, will be among those faculty. “I team-teach an elective course for veterinary students on complementary and alternative veterinary medicine, and about a third of the course is focused on the use of medicinal plants to treat animal diseases,” Kemppainen says. “In the future, the course will include an herb walk in Dr. Shannon's medicinal plant garden.” For detailed directions to or more information about Auburn’s Medicinal Plant Collection, contact Gonzalez at or Shannon at

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Recipe File

Alabama Inland Shrimp Farm Owner/Manager Offers Scrumptious Recipe, Cooking Tips Shrimp is frequently what’s for dinner in David and Nadine Teichert-Coddington’s Greene County home, and that isn’t surprising, considering they have 20 ponds filled with thousands of Pacific whites right in their front yard. Nationally, though, the vast majority of shrimp consumption occurs in restaurants, Coddington says, and he thinks he knows why. “Many persons are timid about cooking shrimp at home,” he says. “But they shouldn’t be, because, in fact, shrimp are so simple to cook.” The biggest mistake people make with shrimp, of course, is cooking them too long. “Don’t be tempted to do that, because overcooked shrimp get tough and lose their

Cajun Barbecued Shrimp 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 stick butter 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder ¼ teaspoon basil ½ teaspoon oregano 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper 2 tablespoons shrimp and crab boil seasoning ¼ teaspoon thyme ½ teaspoon hot sauce 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 ½ pounds large fresh shrimp, shells on Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat; add butter and all remaining ingredients except shrimp. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place the shrimp in a lightly greased 9- by-13inch baking dish. Pour sauce over shrimp and stir once to coat shrimp. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring twice. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings.

flavor,” Coddington says. “My advice is to sample the shrimp as you cook them and take them off the heat while they’re still tender, because they continue to cook after they’re removed from the heat.” If that’s his No. 1 shrimp-cooking tip, here’s No. 2: For maximum flavor, always use sea salt instead of table salt. The beauty of shrimp, Coddington says, is that you can cook it dozens of ways, and all of them taste good. This recipe that was passed along to the Teichert-Coddingtons by a friend is just one for-instance. Serve this delicious but messy dish with French bread for dipping and a full roll of paper towel close at hand.

Spring 2014 Ag Illustrated  

Ag Illustrated is a quarterly publication of the Auburn University College of Agriculture and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. I...

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