In Memory of an Herbal Mentor, Thomas DeBaggio (1942 to 2011)

comments (0) March 6th, 2011

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cookinwithherbs susan belsinger, contributor
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Thomas DeBaggio at DeBaggio Herbs in Chantilly, Virginia.Click To Enlarge

Thomas DeBaggio at DeBaggio Herbs in Chantilly, Virginia.

Photo: Tammy Boggs

Last week, my dear friend and co-author, Thomas DeBaggio died at the age of 69 due to Alzheimer’s. Tom was the first herb grower to truly guide me down the garden path… he was an excellent plantsman and cultivated some of the healthiest plants I have ever seen. I have written a memoriam for the Herb Companion about Tom, his life and numerous accomplishments, including thoughts from a number of his colleagues.

He is survived by his wife Joyce, and son Francesco DeBaggio, as well as his sister, Mary Ann Lovett. Tom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 57 in 2000, and NPR interviewed Tom, Joyce and Francesco throughout the next ten years. On February 22, 2011 National Public Radio did a short piece about Tom,

Washington Post staff writer and gardening columnist Adrian Higgins wrote two different tributes about Tom this past week: and

I had the great fortune to co-author Basil: An Herb Lover’s Guide with Tom for Interweave Press in 1996; it was the most aromatic and flavorful summer that I have ever experienced. In his memory, I am posting the following recipe from our book—we both loved this popular green sauce made with his Genoa Green Basil. In fact, we even made pesto together on NPR, using a mortar and pestle, and this recipe.  This week I made a favorite comfort food—minestrone and garnished it with Pesto—and raised my glass to honor Thomas DeBaggio.

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