Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Garden of Intention

Last night I cooked with what I call the “Holy Trinity” of seasonings:  that perfect combination that can apply in many situations; but always ends up smelling and tasting great, whenever you use it.

Sage, and Thyme, mixed with a bit of the EVO.  (Extra Virgin Olive Oil).

Last night’s application was a pork tenderloin.  The herbs were mixed into the olive oil to make a fluid paste that could easily be brushed onto the piece of meat, coating the meat with the herbs well, without excess oil.  The pork tenderloin came out great; this combo of  seasonings is fail safe for a good meal, and the best thing is, when you come downstairs the next day, your kitchen smells absolutely wonderful!  (Unlike some other “after odors”)

The cool thing was, this time, the sage was not bought from the grocery store, it was from my own garden. 

I have grown flowers for many years, and intermittently, vegetables.  I try, and then give up, because of all the “help” I get from the local groundhog, deer, raccoons, skunks, and even moles (who tunneled thru a perfectly lovely row of carrots one year).  But a year and a half ago my husband got into the act with me.  He wanted to try a new spot on the side of the house which gets a lot of sun, and helped me construct a nice raised bed, complete with a fence.  That first year was moderately successful – and it did prove to be critter proof!  Last year, we tweaked the layout and variety of what we planted, and I relegated space to a few herbs, which I sowed directly into the bed late May.

Although I always sow a pot of basil seeds inside the house to keep in the kitchen, I wanted to plant some outside, as my kitchen planting stays rather small.  I wanted those big, healthy, aromatic leaves.  For whatever reason, the outside germination rate was fairly low, but I did get several nice healthy plants growing.

Rosemary was my next choice.  Very poor germination, I ended up with two plants.  Plus I failed to read the packet – it requires a loooong time for germination, and they recommended starting them indoors.  Oops.  At the end of the summer I had two sprigs about three inches high… that was it.

Sage:  this was my bumper crop.  Very high germination rate, I ended up with 20 plants in two small rows, that grew very thriftily over the summer.

I let the herbs stay in the garden long past when the other vegetables were harvested, but eventually a hard frost loomed.  It was the baby rosemary plants that inspired me to pot my herbs, to keep in the house through the winter.  I didn’t pot all the basil and sage, some I cut to dry.  I made one pot of basil plants and five pots of sage (and I still had plenty of sage left over to dry!)  Plus the rosemary plants went into one pot.

It’s been really nice to have the fresh herbs in the house.  When we cook a turkey or chicken, I have plenty of sage leaves to put under the skin and inside the cavity.  Love doing that.   But with five pots, periodically I have to prune them back a bit, so I’m always drying leaves.  The basil is used frequently too; I don’t just pull leaves, I clip the stem down a bit, which actually stimulates new growth.  The rosemary I have not touched yet, but I will be doing so soon, so that it will branch and not get too spindly.

The plants have done amazingly well.  It was this last new moon cycle that saw me using them for other than culinary purposes, and that got me thinking.  Planning my garden for the spring.

Over time I have developed a personal dictionary of herbs, wildflowers, roots, trees… even foods… that lists their magical or ritual uses.   Some entries are more complete than others, but I do try to tuck away nuggets of information when I encounter them.  I think maybe its time to go back and review that dictionary, maybe add to it.

My goal is this:  a well balanced garden.  Both in terms of nutritional benefits for my family – you can’t eat too many vegetables.  But beyond just eating:  balancing and supporting our goals, our wishes and desires.

What vegetables, herbs, and flowers have associations that represent what we need in our lives, and what we aspire too?  What are the plants that have different elemental associations?  Can I come up with a garden plan that will include plants that will draw upon all the elements? Hmm.  I’m not going to limit myself to just the vegetable plot… some of my flower beds might profit from a “redo” as well.  Maybe some of the kitchen witches out there could give me some pointers…..

So, that’s my homework, my preparation for Imbolc.  What do I wish to see realized for my family over the months to come?  What plantings do I want to include for their positive associations?  What plantings will represent all the different elements?  That will keep me busy for a bit.  I’ll be drawing up my garden plan, and will lay it out on one of my altars the eve of Imbolc.  As I light my candles, I will ask for a blessing, that those plans will see fruition.

May the seeds you sow in darkness bring new life in the coming light.


  1. Great post. This year will be my first try at a decent herb garden. It sounds like it's best to sow indoors - can I start them anytime indoors or should it be closer to Spring?

  2. The only herb I have experience seeding inside is basil... and as far as when to start inside, it depends on whether you plan to transplant them outside or not. My basil pot is kept inside, so the past two years I've started them early March. I used to start some annual flowers inside - and I didn't start them more than 6 weeks prior to when they could be safely transplanted outside. In Maine that means the end of May, so mid April I started stuff. Also, I used to condition the plants before transplanting - a couple of days and nights on the porch where it would be cooler than in the house itself. Hope that helps!

  3. I WANT A GARDEN AND SIGNATURE SPICE MIX!!! My best friend has a signature spice mix. You could blindfold me and let me taste 15 dishes (PLEASE! NO you really can!) and I can pick hers out every time. Right now I live in an apartment so I get my herbs from a friends huge herb farm place, but when I get a house I'm starting my own herb garden!! I am trying your spice mix tonight though. It sounds like a delicious mix. I use a mic of EVO, Rosemary, and Salt on my Beef Souvlaki but that's as close as I have been to an EVO spice mix. I can't wait!

  4. yum.... your Beef Souvlaki sounds good too!