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This is not my herb garden

I apologize for the image quality. These pictures were taken back in the early days of digital cameras and it shows. I prefer to think of it as the mist of memory...


This is not my herb garden.

If it was my herb garden, I could describe the variegated marjoram that edges the rockery along the front edge—the deceptively delicate white-edged leaves and stems of tiny white flowers belie the pungent, peppery scent—and how it grew from one small clump to fill in a dozen feet of edging in one season. I’d know this marjoram was at its best when sprinkled whole on top of plated food—the leaves small enough to be left beautifully intact, yet tender enough to eat whole.

If this was my herb garden, I’d know that Irish moss grows between the herringboned path stones, sending up minuscule white flowers that somehow live while being trod upon.

If this was my herb garden, I’d tell of how the mid-August apple mint threatens Path1cto overtake everything else, its branches stretching as high as one’s chin and making it easy to breathe in the lightly fruity scent. If this was my herb garden, I’d know that this lavender is but one of more than a dozen species that live here: English, Spanish, with flower spikes of violet, magenta, periwinkle, and white. I’d know that a few of the lavenders have been gifted with rare thymes at their feet. Caraway, orange balsam, and even lavender thyme nestle protected from the hottest rays of the summer sun.

Smpath2If this was my herb garden, I’d be able to show you the sweet bay tree in this picture. A sweet bay that has donated leaves to many a tasty dish: innumerable batches of bay-infused mashed potatoes, a pumpkin tart that started as a recipe from the Herbfarm cookbook and became the new traditional pumpkin pie, even crème brulee has been graced by the leaves of this bay.

If this was my herb garden, I’d know that the oregano patch was created by someoneElse, who teased one patch of the hottest oregano in the garden into a hundred or more threads, planted them, and waited over a long winter to see if it had survived. It did, becoming several square feet of the tastiest oregano I’ve ever had: pungent and spicy with a hit of peppery heat lingering on the tongue.

If this was my herb garden, I could show you the special patch of mint—the lime mint. The lime mint that smells like everything delicious you’ve ever eaten, yet like nothing you’ve ever seen. It is downright intoxicating; grown men swoon and small children dance. It also makes incredible sugar cookies.

But it’s not my herb garden. It once was though. When I met it, it was a lawn. Three years later it is this amazing overgrown, mostly edible cottage garden. But I remember the lawn well—it’s what my current herb-garden-to-be is now.

Leading me to the logical conclusion of “if this was my herb garden.” If this was my herb garden, I’d have a lot less work ahead of me now. I figured it out once, that herb garden that is no longer mine had three square feet of oregano, a dozen sages, two dozen lavender, half again as many thyme, every mint I could find (chocolate, lime, ginger, you name it), marjoram, fennel, sorrel, lovage, hyssop, and more, plus the edible flowers--the black violets and saffron crocuses were particularly hard to find.

I had saffron crocuses! Saffron crocuses! You can actually pull the saffron threads off of them and use it. I couldn’t find them to dig up and bring with me. Color me heartbroken.

The bay tree is here, however, as are one huge rosemary and one lavender (but somehow it’s an aromatic not a culinary). Yesterday I went to a friend’s and brought home chives, lovage, sorrel, onions, and currants! So I have a small start on the work…and almost nothing to cook with.

We sold the house to people who liked the herb garden a lot. I lurked and watched as they walked through the garden, eyes scanning, pointing at things they recognized, wondering about things they did not. They scratched, they sniffed, they even mentioned a thing or two they might do with such herbs.

The acid test was, as always, the lime mint. I waited…and waited…and waited. It took over five minutes for them to get to the lime mint, which is pretty good for the 15 steps it takes to cover the distance. Then someone brushed against the lime mint and they all paused, searching for the source of the elusive aroma. There’s a hint of mint there, but not minty mint, nor fruity mint, nor any other mint you’ve smelled, but there’s still some mint there…somewhere. There’s a hint of something tropical there—maybe banana, or mango, or coconut, or guava, yet not quite. Maybe some vanilla…or maybe not. (Are you sure this stuff is from earth?) Then I heard, “Wow! What is that?”

We accepted their offer and to show my appreciation for their appreciation, I left them an annotated copy of The Herbfarm Cookbook. (seriously, if you like herbs at all go buy a copy of this book… if you don’t like herbs at all, talk to me about why not…)

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