Herbs flavor the Chef's Pantry class at the Denver Botanic Gardens

"Colorado just has so much," explains Susan Evans, longtime herbalist and avid gardener. "Most restaurants today try and offer something other than your standard menu, and Colorado is turning into a place where people want to eat what's local, fresh and seasonal."

For that very reason, Evans will offer a cooking class from 6 to 8 p.m. tomorrow, August 15, at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street. The Chef's Pantry will focus on integrating herbs and spices into everyday dining, and participants will be making herb vinegars and vinaigrettes, marinated cheeses and olives, spicy salsa, herb butters, classic pesto and smooth lavender cream.

Evans became interested in plants and gardening as a child, and eventually went on to earn a certificate in Advanced Clinical Herbalism from the now-closed Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies in Boulder, where she learned about the many multi-dimensional advantages of herbs, both in a medicinal sense and a culinary one. "When I first got out of herb school, I did a lot of work with medicinal plants and herbs," she says. "I also always loved food and cooking, so I began to use herbs here and there in the kitchen. Soon I found myself using them in everything, in different tapas and stews, and it's great, because they are so incredibly healthy."

With her passion for organic, sustainable living, Evans is appreciative -- and proud -- of where she lives. "Lately, especially in the last five or ten years, that whole food thing has come full circle, especially here in Colorado," she says. "Before, people weren't that interested. It used to just be what was easy and fast. Now there's a lot more awareness; now it's cool to be a cook, it's cool to be a gardener. It's hip, and hopefully it stays that way."

With classes like this one at the Denver Botanic Gardens, there's little reason to believe otherwise. As more and more people learn about the many benefits of plants and herbs, they will be encouraged to stay rooted in this organic, sustainable lifestyle -- pun definitely intended.

To sign up for the Chef's Pantry class -- $39 for DBG members, $44 others -- go to the Gardens website. That's where you can also find information on the other classes Evans will be teaching there on September 6 and November 7.

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