English professor pursues botanical interest

Liam Schmidt ’22, staff writer

While most of the students at LVC are acquainted with Dr. Robert Machado only as one of the English professors, the Chair of Humanities and Director of English is also quite the experienced botanist.

Thanks to his undergraduate studies in biology, Machado’s interest in gardening has grown to take over his backyard during the last several years as he maintains an increasing variety of plants and herbs.

Machado is particularly fond of his exotic hot peppers, like the biquinho, guajillo, scotch bonnet, scorpion and the bhut jolokia, better known as the ghost pepper. He also looks after more common vegetables (tomatoes, onions and carrots, among many others), herbs and several fruit trees.

“It’s quiet and visceral, working the dirt, turning soil, composting, waiting, harvesting, tending to, physically making,” Machado said. “It’s pleasing as well to dry, collect, sort and store seeds in little waxy glassine bags.”

And while he has always taken pleasure from working out in the garden, Machado now also enjoys watching his 3-year-old son encounter the ever-changing world in their backyard.

“He grazes like a little goat on oregano, fennel, sorrel, lemon balm, basil, even an occasional horseradish leaf,” Machado said.

Home to a diverse array of plants, the garden provides the ingredients for Machado’s homemade kimchi, kvass, kombucha and heirloom tomato sauce. Some of these take quite a while to prepare, but the extra time is well worth it in his estimation.

“[The tomato sauce] usually takes all day, and the house, for me, fills with a warm, loving scent,” he said.

Next year, Machado hopes to expand his garden to include a greenhouse where he can keep succulents and cacti along with a few pieces of midcentury modern furniture. He also plans to continue turning plant electrical signals into a sound art, something he has been experimenting with recently.

Machado finds time for his garden on the weekends and early in the morning before dawn but gives his wife most of the credit for keeping him organized.

“She makes elaborate garden bed planting and crop rotation charts, which helps us,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without her.”