Friday, February 5, 2010

Square 90: Herb garden

Square 090

One of the first gardens I had was an herb garden. I don't know what first attracted me to herbs. Mom had the usual spice jars in her kitchen, and used them only sparingly. I liked the fragrance of herbs, but they also possessed an esoteric, magical quality.

I had a National Geographic book entitled Nature's Healing Arts, which traced the history of pharmaceutical medicine from folklore to modern science. The pages were filled with photographs of traditional healers wading through streams and meadows, gathering mysterious and healthful plants. I wanted to be one of those people, and learned everything I could about the medicinal qualities of weeds, trees and wildflowers that grew around our house and cottage. I collected and dried them, but rarely used them because I really did not trust the idea.

I also kept my interest secret from my friends, just as I hid all my gardening prowess. Boys were not supposed to be interested in plants, especially not these kinds. Mom let me hang herbs to dry in the little room with the water heater and pump, and it's almost funny thinking back: I kept my herbs in a closet.

Now I mostly use herbs in food. The ones most popular in Western cooking are Mediterranean herbs from the mint family, such as sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano and marjoram. Their smells evoke warm lands and sunny skies.

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