Thursday, February 17, 2011

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

We’re in the depths of a snowy, icy, wintry February, and like so many other New Englanders, I distract myself with thoughts of what I’ll do when the weather is a little bit milder.

This year, I’ve decided, I’m going to try to grow window box herbs.

As with most new endeavors, I began at the library. More specifically, I began on the library’s website, reserving the first six or eight books on herb gardening that showed up on my screen.

Never mind that I’ll never find time to read six or eight books about herbs. Never mind that chances are at my level of gardening, which I would peg as extreme beginner, there probably isn’t all that much variety in the basic information I’ll need to get started. All of that not withstanding, when a project catches my attention, the natural first step is always to check out far more library books than I’ll ever be able to read on the topic.

Somewhat overwhelmed with the choices, I’ve decided I’ll start with the herbs I’m already accustomed to using: basil, cilantro, oregano, mint, tarragon, rosemary, chives. The ones that sound wonderful but that I don’t know how to use even if someone else has done the work of growing – lemon verbena, anise hyssop – can wait for another year.

It’s still winter, but I’m already imagining the herbs growing in their little boxes on the sunny deck. I’m imagining snipping off leaves as I cook, pinching a fresh oregano leaf into a tomato sauce, having all the cilantro I want when I make salsa. I can picture freezing or drying the herbs for when the growing season is over.

But so far, all I’ve done is check the books out of the library. That still leaves buying the seedlings, setting up the window boxes, hoping for the necessary sun exposure, supplying the right amount of water, and doing whatever else it takes to make herbs grow.

It’s easy to have good intentions when the ground is still frozen and the air frigid. Dreaming of a sunlit balcony overflowing with savory crops is one thing; learning how to make it happen is another. But in a way, the herb garden is like the yoga: something I finally resolved to try this year after years of intermittently entertaining the idea. And the yoga is going pretty well so far: I’ve stuck with it for nearly four weeks already. I’ll start now with the books about herbs, and in the spring I’ll buy the seedlings. If all goes well, we’ll eat fresh herbs all summer and continue to enjoy the preserved iterations long after. If all goes well, I’ll learn to be an herb gardener. It’s another goal that may or may not come to fruition. Time – and thyme – will tell.

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