The Lushness of Spring and The Iniquitous Price of Fresh Herbs
It's been one of those days where I am racing in and out of the house like a crazy person, without two consecutive half-hours at home to get anything done. Late this afternoon I had twenty minutes before the ballet run, and wondered whether a nana nap might be in order... but no, I thought, I want to achieve something today other than driving. I popped out into my micro herb garden and picked oregano and sage to dry. My 'herb garden' consists of about a square foot of earth in front of some garden pots and rose bushes next to the drive way.
Three years ago I bought a sage plant and an oregano plant at the nursery, totalling maybe $6. I will have both herbs in my garden forever. The sage has a couple of tiny self-seeded babies, but also grows well from cuttings, and the oregano? Well, beware oregano, it grows everywhere:
It is also the secret ingredient which transforms any tomato dish from mundane to sublime. I find that some herbs, particularly oregano, and sage for some dishes, taste better dried. I air dry them in baskets and just crumble them up. Easy peasy. They need to be crumbly-dry before you store them in anything airtight. If in doubt, store them in paper bags for a few weeks. I like to pick and dry them in spring, when they are in full growth, just before they flower. Harvesting a year's worth of oregano and sage takes five minutes. Fast food!
If I had to choose only one herb to grow (that would be a mean, mean thing to do) I think it would be a little bay tree.
This is one herb that needs to be used fresh. A dried bay leaf is a travesty, a shadow of the wonderfully fragrant bouquet of a fresh crushed bayleaf. Almost impossible to kill, you can buy a tiny baytree from a nursery for a few dollars, and it will grow happily in a pot for years. Mine was only a few inches high when I bought it, and this is about three years' growth. Or you can take a cutting from a friend's baytree.
For the price of a packet of seeds you can have annual herbs forever, if you let them go to seed. The persistent and profligate parsley, for instance, currently growing in a crack between the driveway and the house wall.
I do find it extraordinary that there is still a market for fresh herbs. When you can grow them in paving stones. When their abundance is embarrassing in its lushness. When you can gather a year's worth in a matter of minutes, and then wonder what to do with the rest.
When you can overwinter tropical herbs in the laundry, like this hardy lemongrass.
I do wonder what more I could be doing in the garden to feed us. Really, the earth just does want to feed us. It wants to grow stuff. If I was to devote more than a few minutes between errands to producing food, imagine what we could be eating from our little yard...
Tired, but determinedly cheerful mother of four. One grown up son (The Boy), one grown up daughter (The Girl), two girls at home, Rosy (17) and Posy (13). Trying to buy a little less, make a little more, live a little lighter, not mess up the children too much..