Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer Herbs

When I first moved to this house, I had a garden. I was trying to be thrifty and sensible, but as things turned out I was neither. I grew all sorts of vegetables and some cutting flowers. Over time, I realized that it was actually more economical to buy vegetables, since I always grew more than I could eat at one time. I couldn't store lettuce, and what I didn't eat went to seed. Even a single zucchini plant produced more squash than I could enjoy. I tried freezing the extra but did not like the texture. I canned tomatoes for years, but I was never convinced that they tasted any better than storebought.

Economical it was not. I bought tools, seeds, labels, fencing to keep out critters,  and companion plants to keep away bugs. I purchased little plastic greenhouses to start seeds indoors. If I factored in the hours spent planting and weeding and staking plants and mulching and drowning slugs, it really made little financial sense, and it was certainly not my idea of fun. So I stopped. Now I buy fresh produce at farmers' markets or a local farm stand, with one exception—herbs.

Growing most kitchen herbs is easy, inexpensive, and immensely satisfying. Each spring, I buy a few small plants for just a few dollars each. Then I let them grow. A single basil plant, for instance, will provide enough flavoring not only for a summerful of salads and spaghetti sauce but also for a freezer full of pesto. Parsley, thyme,  and sage are also simple to grow and provide a lovely lift to dishes. The herbs I cannot grow (dill, for instance—I've never had luck with that), I buy. I have never eaten better than I do now.

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