07 May 2008

Growing and Drying Herbs

I bought my first small pots of herbs yesterday: Cilantro, Rosemary, Sage and Basil.

It gave me great pleasure to do so. I was on my noon hour, which is usually non-existent or much less than an hour, when my soul needed sustenance.

Bringing the plants up to my nose, I breathed deeply and fully. Is there any sweeter aroma than the first herbs of the season?

I love the soapy aroma of cilantro and the licorice-like flavor of basil. Sage has a calming affect on me and rosemary is probably my favorite of all.

Even before I knew the scents and names of herbs, I knew they were magical. I am not referring to their medicinal or even mystical properties, mind you, but to something I saw Grandma Annie do when I was about eight years old.

Someone had given her a bunch of parsley, which she tied and hung to dry in her back kitchen.

I loved that room, the big red cabinet, the battered old table, the ancient treadle sewing machine and the pleasant jumble of pots and pans and crocks and cheese boxes. Down a short hall from the warm kitchen, it was a cool place for just-from-the-oven pies and cookies.

The wallpaper, probably from around 1920, was a yellowed cream with green and red flowers. The plaster underneath it was crumbling and I have since come to believe this was the original wing of the old house, very possibly dating from 1863.

It was always a little mysterious, shut away as it was from the daily traffic of the old house in Frenchtown.

I knew somehow that the drying herbs imbued it with some sort of magic. They remained hanging from a nail for months, and were eventually joined by other herbs.

Annie used the room mostly for storage, only spending time there when she sewed, which she did with fierce concentration. This she did in August, pumping her foot to the rhythm of crickets and cicadas.

But I knew the room was magic, and I often lingered there. It seemed to calm me, to soothe me in some way I could not grasp as a child.

Today I have my own back room, with a large computer desk, an old cabinet and some book shelves. It is a catch all for pots and pans and cheese boxes and crocks. When we were doing major work on the front part of the house, living out of town and commuting on weekends, this was the room we lived in at the end of the day. It is my favorite place in late summer, when the crickets are singing.

16 comments:

Judy said...

Oh what a lovely post. I haven't bought any herbs yet, but it is on my agenda for this weekend. I am so anxious to be able to snip a branch for whatever I'm cooking during the summer and freezing or drying for the winter in the fall. I think Rosemary is my favorite too and then maybe thyme or.....

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Judy, so good to hear from you!

Yes, I like to step out and snip herbs from the pots on my deck.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Beautiful rosemary! Are you planting outside or keeping in the house in pots? I'm getting ready to plant the hardy annuals this weekend, and the more tender herbs will go in on Memorial Day weekend. I'm harvesting thyme and chives already!

Zoomie said...

My grandmother used the area going down to her basement for drying herbs and she also stashed her jars of brandied peaches there until we popped open the lids and served them over ice cream. Your post brought back that memory -thank you!

Fiona said...

Spring has sprung !

I love herbs too... they are magical and healing ! My favourites would be parsley (thats the one I use the most anyway) and chives. I couldn't live without either.

Your back room sounds lovely and cosy Mimi.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Lydia, I usually do herbs in pots on the deck, but I too have thyme and chives growing in the perennial garden out back.

Zoomie, I love brandied peaches and of course now I crave them! They taste like Christmas to me.

I love those back rooms, Fiona, as they hold such mystery. Any room not used is magical somehow. Or spooky...

TNelson said...

Mimi:

I also bought herbs and got them potted up for the patio this week-end. Two types of basil (we love it!), French taragon (of course), thyme and chives. I'm trying a new one this year named "society garlic" - I saw it at the nursery and couldn't resist. I have given up trying to grow cilantro (one of my favorites) and rosemary. I can't seem to keep them alive. Also three tomato plants which I grow in pots on our patio. I got two hybrid bush tomatoes that are cultivated to grow in pots and I also bought an heirloom tomato called "mortgage buster". I'm anxious to see how that one does for me. Hurray for spring finally getting here! - we've endured a very long cold gray winter here in Nebraska as I know you have also in Wisconsin. I am anticipating many soft spring and summer evenings on our old brick patio admiring herb and tomato plants and some pots of flowers - haven't quite decided on my "theme" for potted patio flowers yet. As always, love your writing and your blog.

Trish

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Thanks, Trish. I also grow tomatoes in pots on my deck.

Now "society garlic" really intrigues me! So does "mortgage buster" - must look those two up!

Farmgirl Cyn said...

Another week or so, when the threat of a late frost is pretty much over, we will be putting in our herbe garden. Lots of flat leaf parsley, basil, rosemary, and a pot of bay. The sage is already back, the oregano is looking great, and the lemon thyme has never really left us! We even have a bit of parsley that managed to survive the winter!

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

How lovely it all sounds, Cyn.

I bought more rosemary plants on my noon hour.

Christine said...

I love your photo Mimi. It's so green and it seems that one could just take a pinch of rosemary from it!
I've been missing my blogging friends and am trying to get back to posting. It's a struggle.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Christine, I feel the same way. Since my work day is often 11 hours or so, I have little energy to post or visit.

But I will pop over this weekend at see what happening in your kitchen.

Thank you for the visit! I think of you when I take photos of flowers or greenery.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

So happy to return home this week to find everything in the garden was still growing the way intended and the jasmine in full bloom hence aroma! A backyard garden is like an outside back room;) How lucky you had Grandma Annie!

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

I agree, Tanna, on all counts. I certainly consider my deck an extra room. I wish it would get warm enough to at least go our there and tidy it up.

Charles said...

Mimi,

I also love herbs. We recently moved, and there's no decent place at our new house to set up a garden, but my rosemary, thyme, and oregano from last summer lived through the winter, so I potted them and brought them along. (also brought our potted lavender) Nothing so calming, as you noted beautifully, as the aroma of fresh herbs.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Charles, i have found that my herbs do best in pots, and I suspect it has something to do with the fact that rabbits don't nibble at them when they are on the deck.