When we first start to see green resurface in the farmers' markets, it usually comes to us in the form of sprouting potted plants, and not the delicious bunches of lettuce and herbs we've been holding out for all winter.
We scurry up to tables covered in green with visions of salads and sautés, but are stopped in our tracks to discover rows of vessels filled with earth and young herbs. Before you turn and walk away, let me make a case for these little guys:
Think of how often you buy a bunch of herbs for a recipe, use a third of it, and end up tossing the rest before your good intentions make use of it. It's a complete waste, not to mention a potential deterrent from buying herbs and/or avoiding a great recipe in the future for this reason.
If you cook much, the value of the potted herb is infinite. It taste much better cut directly from the plant. It looks great in the corner or on the windowsill and is your in-house air freshener. A small rosemary bush will run you around three dollars (I've paid more than that for a bunch of rosemary at the store) and if it is well taken care of, it can fill your rosemary needs indefinitely.
I can hear you thinking, "Sure it's a great value . . . like a free puppy." Yes, it does require some care, but before you're overwhelmed by the responsibility of a sage bush moving into your apartment; hear me out. I have a few tricks to make your plant parenting less of a burden:
- Stick to sturdy herbs: This is key for a few reasons: they're typically stronger in flavor and so recipes require less of the herb itself -- so the plant lasts longer. They require less specific growing conditions, so they're good for almost any home and require little attention.
- Upgrade the pot: A bigger vessel will give your aromatics room to explode, and a greater plant-to-dirt ratio will lessen the room for error in plant care. You can do this for around four dollars per plant.
- Consider the plant nanny: this cool tool does exactly what it says. Plunge it into the dirt next to you new pet and it slowly releases moisture as needed through the ceramic spike. It actually works quite well.
My window garden is about a year old now. I have rosemary, sage and a laurel tree (bay leaves). I haven't needed to purchase these in the market since their acquisition. The way I operate, it must have saved me over one hundred dollars, and spared me from pitching countless otherwise tasty herbs.
Just this week I scored a baby thyme plant to add to the family. If you're going to take the leap too, now is the time to do it. Get in on the value before it's too late. Buy the plants young and give them a month to grow. By the time the real produce gets here you'll have your own herb garden to pick from.
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