The herb garden is one of my favorite places to work – not only because of all the wonderful scents I take in, but also because every herb has its own story. As I move from plant to plant weeding and trimming, I think of the people who gave them to me, or the circumstances how, when and where I acquired them.
The chocolate mint is the oldest plant in the group. It actually started the herb garden. A red Japanese maple had just died the winter before and we did not quite know what to do with that sunbaked weed-filled area above a stonewall. I planted a lonely mint because I did not know what else to do – I was just getting into gardening at the time. When the mint thrived (of course it did, all mints do!) I was thrilled. It was pretty the way it grew over the wall so I made it a project to turn the whole area into an herb garden.
Today the herb garden is filled with more than two dozen culinary and medicinal herbs. Of course, like with everything else in gardening, there were several failures. Basil, dill, borage and parsley fall victim to the rabbits in a single night, therefore I must grow them in the fenced-in vegetable garden. Our hilltop winters are too rough for rosemary and lavender so those are in containers on the patio and overwinter in the house.
This morning, I was out in the herb garden early to make room for some herbs I bought at the Pennsylvania Lavender Festival yesterday. I was never a big shopper; shoe-buying sprees, for example, are totally strange to me (with shoe size of 11, I don’t want to attract too much attention to my feet anyway) but I can get a bit out of control when it comes to kitchen tools and plants. Therefore I had asked my friend to put me on a leash and not let me buy more than five plants. I stuck to it and came home with two culinary sages, rue, St. John’s worth, and winter savory. If they make it through the winter, they will not only be beautiful additions to the herb garden, but also bring back memories of a great early summer outing.
Lemon Balm Granita
1 cup packed lemon balm leaves (about 1.5 ounces)
3 cups boiling water
Sugar to taste
Dash of lemon juice
1. Wash the lemon balm leaves. Rip them apart with your hands or chop coarsely and place in a heatproof bowl or teapot.
2. Add the boiling water and let steep 30 minutes. Squeeze the leaves to extract as much liquid as possible from the infusion. Sweeten to taste and stir to dissolve the sugar completely.
3. Fill an ice-cube tray and freeze. Refrigerate the rest of the infusion until chilled.
4. Put the ice-cubes and the infusion in a blender with a dash of lemon juice. Crush to a slush and serve immediately.
Makes 2 servings