Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Debi: Herbal Malady

I have a little bit of a mint problem.

This house, like many houses in my part of town, has a small, fenced in back yard that includes a garden. The former owners were impeccable gardeners and clearly did a lot of planning so that perennials continued to flower throughout the growing season. They also must have really, REALLY liked mint, and all things mint-like, and all of mint's cousins and uncles and step-brothers. All the pictures above are mint-family-members growing in my garden. There are two more varieties not pictured above, including my favorite, a spearmint which actually grows in the alley outside my yard and, because of a crack under the fence, along the perimeter of my backyard patio.

Two of the mint family members above are actually oregano, which -- who knew? -- is actually a type of mint. One of the oregano brothers here is delicious and makes for great pizza sauce and soup, and the other is bitter and probably should be dug up and treated like a weed. One of the mint varieties above is also a little bitter, but, paired with that purple feathery-looking mint dame in the last picture, makes a wonderful tea. That purple gal is called Anise Hyssop (also a mint! will they never stop?!), a licorice mint that makes that whole area of the garden smell like a candy store.

When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Milwaukee, my mother had an absolutely spectacular garden that she loved dearly, protected from area deer by a tall chicken-wire fence. I remember the wonder of eating sugar snap peas right off the vine, warm from the sun. I remember wrinkling my nose in disgust at the spinach she insisted was wonderful, too. That said, I hated the work of that garden and, when I bought my first home, never planned to do more than plant a pot of tomatoes, maybe. Now that I'm here, and there is mint as far as the eye can see, I can't bear to throw it out. I take care of it, harvest it, dry it, share it with friends, leave bouquets of it on front porches, beg friends to dig up plants for their own gardens. I am my mints' pimp!

Oh, yeah, and did I mention? I've added more to the herbal insanity:

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