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...