Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett on the allure of gardening, man-eating plants, and eating straight from the vine

Kirk Hammett of Metallica
Michael Kovac / Getty Images

When he’s not touring the globe with Metallica, curating his horror-movie poster collection, or partnering with craft distillers Blackened whiskey, Kirk Hammett finds time to tend the vegetable garden at his 19th-century Northern California homestead.

How exactly does a globe-trotting metal god find time to tend his garden?

I’m a better harvester than I am a grower. What I usually do is have someone start everything and then I can step in and take over and start watering and pruning and harvesting. And digging in the dirt is good for strengthening my hands. There’s something really grounding about the magnetic energy of the earth in my hands. I can feel it.

Sounds like you’ve got the fun part of the job. Give us an inventory of what you get to harvest. 

I have a vegetable garden, a bunch of fruit trees, and nut trees as well. In late summer there’s an abundance of apples, peaches, figs, plums, and cherries, and it’s like, insane. I’ve been growing asparagus seven or eight years, so when the stalks come up, they come up. I have a horseradish that wants to take over the entire garden. I grow goji berries, pomegranates, calendula; I have two almond trees and about 12 hazelnut trees.

What do you do with all that food when it comes in? 

I like to can, provided I don’t have too bad of a touring schedule. I make fig jam with habaneros. I can everything from cherries to peaches. I’ve made marmalade and applesauce. I’m way into eating raw fruits and raw vegetables. I stroll out on the grounds and just decide what I’m going to eat right there and then, standing in the midst of all this great stuff. That’s the great thing—just go out and pick it right off the vine. I like being in control of what I put into my body. Ground zero for that is growing your own food.

Over the years you’ve amassed an impressive collection of rare and vintage horror-movie posters (currently on exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto). Do you bring any of that horror aesthetic into gardening?

I really like certain orchids that to me look very, very evil. One time I went to an orchid show with my wife and saw a black orchid. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I have two fig trees that I suspect are over 100 years old. They’re so old and gnarly-looking; they really look kinda evil in the wintertime. I grow Buddha’s hand citrus. They’re crazy-looking. They look like something out of H.P. Lovecraft when they start fruiting. As a kid, I was obsessed with Venus flytraps, and I loved the man-eating plant in The Addams Family and Little Shop of Horrors. All my life I’ve fantasized about having a plant like that; that I could feed like a pet, that’d be responsive. That would be the ultimate.