Get Dirty

This weekend, as I told you in the firepit post, was GORGEOUS. Perfect weather, the kind that makes you think that there truly is no better place on earth. Winds were slight, sunlight was abundant, not even a cloud in the sky-blue-crayon blue sky. The perfect of May Days.

Naturally, I was itching to do some diggin’ in my garden. We’ve gone from green, green, green to wonderful little splotches of color here and there. Bumblebee yellow irises nestled in with the raspberry pink roses, baby pink foxglove, and flamenco-dress orangey-red poppies. They are pieces are art, those poppies. I’ve never seen any so large or so vibrant.

I got my wish to garden. Dug up a big area of lawn (sorry, hubby), placed in some big flagstones as a path, mixed in some “good dirt” and finally planted some fabulous new blooms. We’ll see how they perform this summer. It’s almost like a kid waiting for Christmas to arrive. And now my arms and shoulders are paying the price for all of the hard work. It’s not work, though, when you enjoy it…right?

What are YOU going to plant this year? Please say that you’ll plant something, and don’t give me that black-thumb excuse. Everyone is capable of even having the simplest little herb plant on your windowsill and having it thrive. Sun, a tad of water, a little lovin’…that’s all you need. Did you know that there is actually a scientific reason why gardening makes you feel so good? There are teeny organisms in the soil that are released into the air when the soil is disrupted. Those organisms actually get inhaled by the gardener (sounds gross, but it’s no biggie) and they have the same effect that endorphins do. They are feel-good organisms. That’s why, after a long day out in the yard, you are whipped from working but also feel so satiated and happy. See, it is good to get dirty. Rawr, I say.

In addition to the digging being good for your mental health, there are many herbs which are nutrient, vitamin and antioxidant powerhouses. And in terms of planting, herbs are about as easy as they come. They are a sure thing. Stick them in a window box, stick them in a large planter. They not only look beautiful (I even gather them up and plunk them in a vase on the table) but they smell great and taste something wonderful. It’s like adding “summer” to a plate, without sounding too cornball. Honestly, can you beat a platter of mozzarella and plump, warm tomatoes with fresh basil sprinkled over it all like culinary confetti? I think not.

This weekend…it’s a long one and the kick-off of summer. Go plant something. A flower. A bush. An herb. Or 6! You’ll love it. Even though I could easily get swept up at the herb farm and buy one of everything in sight, I’m growing up. Translation: restraining myself. Just buying what I know I will use. Ok, maybe one or two “frills” just to satisfy my whims. Last year, I came home with a lemon scented geranium plant called French Lace. Why? I just liked the name.

Here are some of my faves for the summer that I KNOW you will use if you crack open a good cookbook or two. Enjoy watching them grow, smelling them on the tips of your fingers, and tasting them when you bring a bite to your lips.

Lemon Balm: Great in iced teas or in fruit salads
Thai Basil: Great in chicken dishes or in Vietnamese Summer Rolls. Slightly licorice-y (and I’m not a black licorice fan, so believe me, it’s not overpowering. Wonderful flavor, though)
Italian Basil: Your Caprese salad will be naked without it.
Lavender: Great in iced, black teas or just to take your stresses away with it’s scent
Lemon Thyme: Any place you like thyme (roasted chicken, grilled chicken, chicken salads), go for this one
Pineapple Mint: Ice teas and fruit salads are perfect with this
Rosemary: Imagine Tuscany. Grill something. ‘Nuff said. You can even use the stripped branches as skewers. Big points on presentation there.

See, these aren’t any crazy herbs. You can handle this and your little garden, wherever it is, will be better for it. Give it a go!

Two websites that are very comprehensive in terms of herbs medicinal and culinary uses are:

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