The Gardener's Special Something

A family member told me once that Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday.  I asked him why and he replied that this holiday focused more on tradition and family (and yes on food).  This is the time of the year when we can use much of what we have grown in our gardens to decorate, to flavor, and to eat.

Although I have not previously  written about my herb garden in this column, it is an important component of my garden world.   I love freezing and drying herbs for our Western New York winters.  One of my favorite things to make is herbes de Provence, the famous and wonderful mix of herbs that takes its name from a mixture of herbs grown in southern France.  Of course you can purchase this famous mixture but it is more fun (and much less expensive) to make your own.  Herbs that I usually include  are thyme, rosemary, summer savory, lavender, oregano, sweet marjoram, sage, fennel seed or fennel leaves, and basil.  I mix the dried  herbs in roughly equal proportions (by volume) although if I have extra of one herb it gets tossed into the mixture as well.  Some people also include bay leaves, cloves, tarragon, chervil, and even orange zest.  I find these additions to be “interesting” but I am more of a traditionalist.  If you don't have all or any of the components of herbes de Provence you can order it, buy it, or buy the dried herbs to mix your own.  Now, where can you use this mixture?  On meat (red or white), on fish (or in the flour you may be using as a coating), on other seafood, on vegetables --- in other words on about anything.  When family and friends say that your food has that “special something”  you can respond (in French of course) that it has that “Je ne sais quoi.”.

Now that we are thinking more about the indoors take a look around your residence.  Aren't some new plants needed to make your indoor world a bit more pleasant?  Perhaps some existing plants need to be washed, divided, or discarded.  The discarding part is very difficult for me, but dead or no longer useful plants can be composted unless they are diseased.  I like to propagate plants so after digging up a plant I usually find a way to make more.

Why should the outdoor gardener even care about indoor plants?  Indoor plants are an extension of the outdoor world and do wonderful things for our homes.  I actually grow indoor plants for the same reason I grow out door plants ---love.  But if you need a reason: NASA conducted research and found that some easy to grow plants greatly reduce contaminants in the air we breathe.  One plant can remove up to 87% of pollutants in a 100 square foot area.  Plants also give off water through their leaves in a process called “transpiration” so they help to  increase the humidity in air which may be very dry due to the use of your furnace.  These are all easy to grow plants so no excuses now!  The first is golden pothos which thrives in both direct and indirect light.  Give it a thorough watering periodically and it will thrive.  Peace lilies (Spathophyllum) are also easy to grow in low light.  If you forget to water your peace lily it will flop over but will quickly revive when watered.  Spider plants are also easy to grow.  The only problem I have ever had is that our cats find them delicious.  Hanging pots help solve this problem.

Forever Young Magazine November 2006