It has always been my dream to have a luscious herb garden so I can pluck whatever is needed for dinner right from it, instead of paying exorbitant prices for a big bunch, from which I will only use one sprig, and let the rest wilt in my fridge. In the past, I have made numerous attempts to cultivate a little corner of scent and flavor in my humble little yard. There were the times when I took home pots of parsley from the grocery store, only to have them die before I ever got to use them. There was also that time when I got so excited upon finding mini-hockey puck like packed soil cakes pre-seeded with herbs in Tokyu Hands that I bought one of every variety. As soon as I got home, I took out little containers, filled them up with water, and floated my little soil cakes in them. They quickly soaked up the water and expanded, and within a week, I had baby hair like sprouts coming out of all of them. Yeay! My dream was finally about to come true! However, in the heat of the excitement, I had forgotten about our 10-day trip to the Maldives coming up in less than a week. I duly potted all the herbs before we left for the trip, but they did not survive the ten days without any water, even though I placed soaked towels under the pots. Since then, there had also been other store bought herb plants, mainly basil and parsley, but none lived long enough to grow to a size suitable for using. The plants sold in stores are so small that if I plucked the 3 leaves from the basil plant, I’d have nothing left but a stub. Why do they all have to be so fragile?
Enters the rosemary. The first time I noticed how sturdy they are were on our trip to Marrakech. The boutique hotel where we stayed was owned by a French woman and her American ethno-herbologist husband. During the years that they operated the hotel, he had covered the landscape with organic herbs and indigenous vegetables, with rosemary bushes everywhere. It was so abundant that we had a big sprig on our pillow every night and it’s featured prominently in the daily display of fresh wild flowers in our room.
Although I am a big fan of rosemary, it never occurred to me to grow my own. Why, I don’t need to! I have been picking it from that shopping center five minutes from my apartment. It’s a little open space surrounded by shops and restaurants, and rosemary bushes. Whenever I needed rosemary, I went there to pick the freshest. I did have to be careful and only pick those growing in high places, as you see, it’s also a popular place for people to walk their dogs and I didn’t want to find out how doggie-pee would smell on rosemary. Still, it would be nice to have my own stash so I wouldn’t have to suffer the suspicious looks on passer-bys' faces while I loot the rosemary bushes.
As luck would have it, the very next time I needed rosemary and went to pick it at the shopping center, I discovered rosemary plants on sale at the flower shop in the plaza. I gladly shelled out $10 for a plant that measured about 40cm in height and two smaller ones 10cm tall each. The big plant was very healthy looking and had so many leaves that I immediately used some for a rosemary bread. I then placed the plants in a sunny spot in my yard and watered them diligently every week. All things were going well and images of rosemary scented chocolate fondue and lamb chops in rosemary marinade danced in my head. Then I went on a business trip for five days, and entrusted the care of the rosemary to Jason. This is what I found when I came back.
Not a single live needle on the entire plant! How could it be? How can it die in just five days?! How is it that it can survive Marrakech’s desert climate but only lived for two short months in my yard? Jason denies any wrongdoing or negligence and suggested I collect the dried up needles for future use. But I don’t need dry rosemary! I have two bottles already. What I want is those plump, firm needles that leave a strong fragrance on your fingers for hours!
Luckily, the two smaller plants survived and are now sprouting new branches. My little rosemary plants, now the future of the herb garden lies in your hands (branches). If I have success with you, I shall give you some friends next spring. If you fail, I will have no choice but to go back to my rosemary-stealing ways.