When I lived in Vermont on the side of a mountain, I tried my hand at organic gardening. I was very idealistic--and financially challenged, I might add--back then. We had a little virgin strip of land on the hill above the house. After hours spent brush-hogging and removing all the sod by hand, I tilled fallen leaves, compost, and horse manure into the soil. My intent was to grow tomatoes, hot peppers, and maybe some sweet corn--all of which failed miserably.
Unfortunately, there is very little sun in Vermont's sunny spots and there weren't many sunny spots in my beautifully rich garden space. And not only was it shadowed by trees, it hovered just above the snow line. Frost came early, even earlier than the middle of September that is so typical in the valleys. By the middle of August, when my late blooming plants were just starting to produce some fruit, the icy hand of winter descended and I found myself waking up to black stalks and frozen green tomatoes (I learned how to make green tomato relish that year) Never-the-less, I was desperate for a garden. I worked so hard, after all. So I opted for produce better suited to the cool, shady conditions. Herbs.
Most herbs love cool mornings and don't require a full eight hours of sun, so they were perfect for me. I grew mint and oregano (which make beautiful purple-flowered adornments for packages wrapped in brown paper--provided they are delivered that day). I grew mounds of basil and discovered I loved pesto, or "green slime" as my children called it. I discovered I could dry my own herbs and save tons of money when we didn't have much spare cash. So really, my love of herb gardening was an outgrowth of the old adage, "poverty begets ingeunity."
Anyway, you should see visitors to my kitchen react when I send them outside with instructions to harvest sage for the soup I am making for lunch. Some look a little lost, but most love it. It's a little like a trip to Grandma's or an excursion to some fancy holistic resort. Do you love cut flowers? Bring them inside and let your guests enjoy a bouquet on the kitchen table. Do you have fresh tomatoes or mounds of zucchini? Have company help you gather enough to whip up something fresh in the kitchen and then send some home for good measure. Maybe you even know a little about edible flowers. Rose petal scones and lavender butter gush with romance and turn grown women into little girls playing tea party.
Rose Petal scones
2 cups flour 1/2 cup sugar 1 Tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons sour cream 1 egg, beaten 3/4 cup milk 3/4 cup rose petals or other edible flowers
1. Whisk together flour sugar, baking powder, sugar, salt and flower petals 2. cut butter into chunks and cut into dry ingredients with a pasty blender or fork 3. in a different bowl, combine sour cream, egg, and milk 4. make a well in the center of dry ingredients 5. pour wet into dry and mix with a fork until a ball forms 6. turn out onto a floured surface and press into a circle about an inch thick and slice into 8 peice like a pie (you may need to flour your knife to keep it from getting sticky) 7. cook on a buttered cookie sheet or baking stone for 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees
1/2 stick butter, softened 1 Tablespoon dried lavender flowers 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
1. Whip with a fork until creamy 2. spread liberally on scones and enjoy!
You can fine more from Laura LaBrie (my sweet and amazing mother) in her book