The ‘craft wars’ category

Basil + Mint = ?

September 5th, 2014

Herb garden 1

When I moved to Utah in the beginning of the summer, I had grand aspirations to cultivate a series of gardens in our enormous suburban backyard. I wanted to make my mark on my new house (which my S.O. bought with his ex-wife), customizing it into a place that would feel like home to me.

First, there would be the English flower garden, and nestled within it would be my sea foam green bistro table set that I bought at the consignment store in Fairfax a few years ago. The English garden would be an overgrown affair rife with lavender, sunflowers, coneflowers, daisies, roses, and peonies, a place I could take my afternoon tea and read novels.

Then, I would build a boxed-in vegetable garden with deer and gopher-proof mesh walls and floors. There, I would yield abundant crops of organic veggies sprouted from heirloom seeds ordered from a puritanical Vermont farmer with lofty ideals: charming heads of lettuce, lush tomatoes, demure snow peas, peppers ablaze with color and spice. Summer evenings, I’d selectively pick from amongst my spoils to make delicious, vibrant salads, and in the fall, my harvest would provide for hearty squash and potato soups to get us through the cold Utah winter.

And lastly, there would be the herb garden.

My superstar of a homesteader mother always kept two vegetable gardens and a separate herb garden on our property in rural Ashfield, Massachusetts. The prodigal herb garden was the centerpiece of the front yard, lining the stone steps which marked the way from the steep dirt driveway to the entrance of the house, and seemed to never be under control in its dedication to wild abundance.

I thought mine was a modest gardening plan, but like most wildly unrealistic ideas (did I mention I’ve never been able to keep a non-succulent alive in my life and loathe manual labor?) it was not to be. Not only did I not manage to get the vegetable and English gardens off the ground—nary a spade was wielded in that endeavor—I soon learned that weeding the existing spectrum of plants was simply not for me. “If you ever have any spare time feel free to come out here and do some weeding,” Jon has casually mentioned, more than once. “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” I always reply, as I lie motionless on the trampoline, getting some vitamin D.

It’s simply too hot here—and sometimes, too cold or too rainy—to crouch down amongst the plants and try to decipher “weed” from “plant that looks just like weed but somehow isn’t, in Jon’s mind.” There is weather, and there are also slugs, and animal poops, and just my general malaise to contend with.

My visiting friend Christy aside my "herb garden," valiantly ignoring the yeti cat.

My visiting friend Christy aside my “herb garden,” valiantly ignoring the yeti cat.

But I did create a small herb garden in pots on the deck this summer. It may not rival the unstoppable wild beauty of my mom’s herb garden, but it has been a fine effort, I think.  All summer, I’ve had fresh spearmint, basil, thyme, and oregano. I even made a few pestos. And now that summer is winding down and my herb plants are threatening to take it to the next level by flowering and spreading their seed, I decided to try drying some of the more profligate herb leaves.  That would be the alpha herbs: basil and mint.

Herb Garden 3

It was pretty much a success, except for one thing: I forgot to mark which herbs were which on my makeshift drying rack, and didn’t count on them all shriveling up to one green, crunchy looking mess. And I also didn’t count on my olfactory skills decreasing sharply as the allergies of a new state assailed me this year, so by the time the herbs were dry, I couldn’t tell them apart.

Which is why I ended up inventing a new dried herb blend: basil + mint. Now, does anyone have any suggestions for how to cook with it?

Herb garden 2

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