I love herbs. Just about every one I've ever met. At our last home, I had a nicely established little herb garden, with chives, oregano, lemon balm, mint, lavender, tarragon, chamomile, lovage, and probably a few more. Which was in just a few raised beds by our back door, along with vegetables and whatever else I could squeeze in during the growing season - you really don't need much space to grow a lovely assortment. Herbs are amazing - they have fantastic health benefits, are such a pleasurable sensory experience to grow and harvest and use, and they add so much flavour to food. I also love how steeped in history they are and used for centuries as medicine. I remember being enthralled with Ophelia's herb deliveries in Hamlet when I was in high school.
I divided most of the herbs from the other house and plunked them here and there around this new place last summer. Frankly, I can't remember where I even put some of them. I'm looking forward to the surprise this spring. I do know where I put the tarragon, though, and it should soon be out from under the snow. It was a rough winter, and I hope that it made it through. Don't tell the others, but tarragon is my very favourite one. I did a little hunt for the chives (I think they're by the well) yesterday, but no luck yet.
At this time of year, and all through the winter, though, there are only a couple of ways to have fresh herbs. I dry a lot that I grow outside during the summer, and will probably post about that in July, but after the last fall harvests, fresh is harder to come by. I usually buy parsley, rosemary, and thyme in little pots at the grocery store. They go on sale 2 for $4 at Sobeys every now and then, and I can usually manage to keep them going through the winter and spring. For herbs I can't buy actively growing, I check the fresh herb bunches in the produce section at the Superstore, and buy sage, rosemary, and mint when they're half price and discounted for quick sale. (But check carefully to make sure they're not too far gone.) If I don't use the whole batch fresh, I dry the rest either by hanging, laying to dry on a paper towel, or in the dehydrator. I'm currently trying to root some mint stems from a fresh grocery store bunch with mixed success. I stripped the leaves and dried them for tea, after washing them well, of course. I just tucked them in a pot with a houseplant, and am planning to start the county's largest mint patch this summer. Partly for the bees, partly for me.
If you buy the fresh bunches at the grocery store, there's actually quite a bit stuffed into those little packages. I have some tarragon and sage on the windowsill, and I love just grabbing a few leaves here and there to munch on or toss into something I'm concocting. I'm hoping that the sage stems will root; I don't think the tarragon will.
Along with providing flowers for the bees when they're grown outside, herbs are useful for all sorts of things. Rosemary, sage, bee balm, and yarrow deter deer in the garden. (I'll have the chance to test that out here at the farm where there are plenty of deer!) My favourite way to use them is to make teas - just toss a bunch of leaves of whatever you have on hand into a pitcher and infuse water to drink through the day, or use boiling water if you'd like something warm. A sprig of rosemary in homemade lemonade is dreamy. Mint and lemon balm are one of my favourite tea combinations. Chopped tarragon goes so well with eggs or potatoes, and thyme and chicken are a match made in heaven. Any combination chopped and tossed with vegetables then roasted will probably be awesome. And a sage leaf (dried or fresh, but fresh is less poky) placed on a canker sore will help it to heal.
I could go on and on (and I already have) - in a nutshell, herbs make my life better. I'm planning a broccoli quiche for this weekend (I think I'm on a quiche kick now) and I'll definitely be tossing some tarragon in there.
In other news, P has had a fever for a few days, and is pretty pitiful. I've somehow managed to avoid the variety of germs that has been circulating around this house, and I'm hoping that continues. Some bee supplies arrived today (wheeeeeee!) and I heard the weaker hive humming when I checked on them yesterday. For once, the wind was calm enough that I could hear them. We have a busy weekend including a little party for T who turned 5 this week (!) and I'm hoping to squeeze in some yoga. Since the 30 Days of Yoga in January, I've continued on, but not nearly as regularly. I miss it!