So into the planter went basil, dill, thyme, and parsley. I still have oregano, chives, thyme, fennel and a few others in the garden--the perennials. Rosemary and sage are in big planters on the deck that I can move indoors in winter to keep them alive. Our winters, with their extremes of temperature, are not kind to these tender perennials, and even thyme has a struggle to survive them.
As I planted I realized that I know little about these plants. Well, I know that most of them come from Mediterranean clime. And I know how to dry or otherwise preserve them and how to cook with them. But I don't know a great deal about their history, or the folklore attached to them. So I've been doing a bit of reading up, and here's some of what I have learned.
|A basket of herbs, ready to dry, from a blog post in 2008|
Parsley: While basil must be cussed at to properly germinate, parsley, according to the ancients, has to travel nine times to the Devil before it sprouts--one explanation for why it is so difficult to get the seeds to come up. The seeds that don't germinate are the ones the Devil keeps! Whoa. I learned to plant in June, and cover the seedbed with newspaper kept moist to encourage good germination. There are some not-so-great associations made with parsley: "Welsh parsley" was slang for the gallows rope, and parsley was associated with other bad luck in many places. In several cultures it was connected with death, and used to scatter over a grave at a burial and to make funeral wreaths. However, the Romans fed parsley to their horses to keep them healthy, and its roots were considered an aphrodisiac. As we now know, parsley is full of vitamins and minerals and considered a healthy as well as attractive addition to foods.
This is just the tip of the iceberg where herbs and their lore are concerned. Here are a few websites to explore for more fascinating insights into the past and present of our culinary herbs:
Our Herb Garden is a compendium of myth and practical advice for the herb gardener.
Mother Earth Living provides history, folklore and growing tips.
The Sanctuary Gardener is a blog by a southern transplant that explores all kinds of gardening wisdom and homesteading, including herbs.
A booklist for further reading by Madronna Holden, Oregon State University.
Then use all those herbs you've grown to make your own bouquet garni for soups and other dishes.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.