growing herbs

rosemary and friends

I will always make room in my garden for herbs.

Also garlic, and spring bulbs, and maple trees, and iris (my garden is pretty full of stuff)…but if I could only grow a few plants, they would almost certainly be herbs. Pretty, hardy, easy to grow, and edible – what more could you ask from a plant? Not to mention how much a pack of fresh herbs costs at the grocery store. It’s cheaper to grow them yourself, and you know they’re fresh when you picked out of the back garden just a few minutes before dinner.

Here’s what’s currently growing in my garden:



I’ve always grown sage. My main sage bush came from a clump in my mother’s garden in Eastern Washington, unceremoniously dug out with a shovel and plopped into my first real garden over ten years ago. It gets straggly, but I simply cut it back hard and back it comes. I have several more sage plants, including a culinary sage in a pot on the deck, a large leaf sage mostly for ornament in the front yard, and a few purple sages for color. I hardly ever have dried sage on hand in the kitchen, because I can always go outside and pick some fresh, even in the snow.

new bay leaves

I was so thrilled when I realized the Western Washington climate allowed me to grow bay laurel. I’m not sure I’d ever had sweet bay before, just the slightly toxic and harsh California bay sold in grocery stores. I adore fresh bay leaves, and use them in soups, braises, curries and roasts. A leaf in a simmering bechamel sauce gives it a great earthy scent. Going out to the patio in my bathrobe to pick a few leaves is a wonderful thing. My tree was enormous a few years ago, pushing up through the decking, but then a hard winter took it down and it’s currently reinventing itself with a forest of suckers. Sometimes when it needs pruning I’ll take a branch inside, so I’ll have dry leaves for blending into curry powders and sausage.

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spring feeling

flower girlSpring Feeling cocktail

Spring has officially sprung! We’ve had some frost on the ground this past week (a rarity this winter), but the days have been mostly sunny and the breezes blow eddies of cherry petals around the streets. Daffodils are in full bloom and the tulips are already beginning to blaze away in pots, borders and farm fields. My garden is beginning to come to life, which makes my fingers itch to get out and weed and plant and take pictures.

bleeding hearts

just opened


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pork vindaloo


white lilac

It’s been a fragrant week around here.

First, I was walking home for lunch, and was waylaid by a neighbor who was engaged in cutting down several large white lilac bushes that had been attempting to take down some powerlines behind her house. The lilacs were in full bloom, and she insisted on cutting me a large bouquet to take home before they wilted on the downed shrub. I put them on the kitchen table, and every time the evening sun hits them the room fills with the scent of lilac.


Then, of course, the daphne odora is in bloom by the front porch steps. It’s old for a daphne, and beginning to list alarmingly to starboard (I may have to attempt some pruning this year), but when it blooms the smell is an astonishing sugary explosion, drowning out all other scents within a fifteen foot radius.

And finally, we made pork vindaloo. The house smelled wonderful for days.

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in the garden: a new blog!


I have news!

As you may have noticed, ever since I started this blog, I’ve been amusing myself with a self-indulgent weekly Saturday post featuring something blooming in my garden. I have no idea if this has been interesting to any of my foodie readers, so I decided to do a little rearrangement.

Henceforth, Food on the Brain shall be food only. Those wishing for more of a garden photo fix, or just see what’s blooming here in Skagit Valley, may now repair to its sister site, Jessamyn’s Garden. I can definitely say that there will continue to be some crossover, since food and gardening are my passions and they keep leaking into each other, but it won’t be quite such a jumble. I’ll be moving all the old “in the garden” posts to the new site as I have time.

Please check out the new blog, and let me know how you like it!

Edited 8/4/08: I have moved all the old garden posts over, and deleted them from this site.

Edited 9/14/09: I started the new blog as The Weekend Gardener, but got tired of it and changed it to Jessamyn’s Garden as of today. Hopefully it’ll stay put now!

spring break!

spring in the back yard

We are off to the Big Island of Hawaii today, to experience the delights of hot lava, sulfur gas and plate lunch! The garden and this blog will have to get by without me for the next week. As you can see, the garden’s doing pretty well on its own anyway (ignore the weeds), and I’ll have at least one post lined up so the place won’t be completely deserted. I won’t be around to respond to comments, though, unless I stumble across a computer along the way.

But with any luck, I’ll have some great material when I get back!