Once upon a time there was a farmer and his wife who grew a lot of herbs. They lived on an island, on the West Coast of Canada. The business was closed during the winter months, which meant that they had more time to see friends; nothing could be finer than sharing food and conversation in front of a crackling log fire.
Because they entertained a lot, the farmer spent many a time in his garden looking for herbs to use in the kitchen. He really enjoyed cooking, so it gave him great pleasure to wander around the herbs, as often they would tell him what to cook. He could almost hear the individual plants pleading to be used in that evening’s menu; choose me, choose me, they would whisper, as he passed by. He comforted the plants by reassuring them that eventually they would all be used.
In order to maintain fairness in the garden (and be politically correct) he tried hard not to have favorites. However sorrel was one of the herbs that he secretly coveted, it’s large, sour tasting, green leaves were perfect for soup; blended with spinach, onions and some stock it soon produced a steaming bowl of goodness. It also liked to be finely shredded and added in small amounts to a salad, where it hid amongst the dull winter lettuce ready to surprise the eater with its sharp lemon flavor.
Thyme plants of all shapes and sizes were dotted around his garden, some were stronger flavored and used in robust soups and stews, and others had a pleasant aroma of lemons and were often used at the last moment with steamed shellfish. Sometimes the thyme was infused with butter and drizzled over pasta with grilled vegetables.
At the far end of the garden was an area covered with a plastic tunnel; here the farmer experimented to see which annuals would keep growing through the winter. In a mild year he found that cilantro did very well. He had even harvested it on Xmas day to add to a salsa. At other times it was used in couscous, or curry recipes from Asia. A part of the world, where he had worked in his younger days. Dill also grew well in the covered area and was proud to be harvested and used in ‘gravlax’, a Scandinavian dish of cured salmon. This was a favorite dish of the farmers’ friends.
The farmer had a particular passion for Melissa, commonly called Lemon Balm. Her leaves endured longer than most others and were very comforting mixed with hot water and enjoyed as a tea. Sometimes he would find small amounts of mint leaves and add them to the pot alongside her.
A fine looking Bay tree graced his property; it was ten years old now and allowed to stay outside all winter long. Many a slow cooked dish was enhanced with its unusual fragrance. This particular herb was an exception to the rule and only released its flavor when cooked for a long time. He was very happy to have such a fine tree to supply fresh leaves as the dried variety had very little taste.
The farmer had a good life, and after a winter of reading books and eating fine meals, looked forward to the spring where the plants renewed and the miracle of nature continued.