As I see my summer plants finishing in the garden beds, I notice how well the fall crop of peas and beans is doing among the herbs and garlic companion plants. The salads and dishes made from these herbs all year round help fill us with warmth and energy that just cannot be matched by some impersonal store-bought vegetables and fruit. Somehow, with all our technology, computers and cell phones, we have actually become less connected with community and the basics of sharing an evening meal with friends, relatives or even strangers.
I believe the energy and love that we put into the plants through nurturing them is contained in the food we make into meals, deserts or teas; especially when we share them with others. Ah…the taste of a homemade blackberry pie washed down with homegrown, homemade, iced peppermint herb tea, while sitting in the warm summer air; the luxury of it, the taste…of joy and caring…of love. The late evening moments spent sitting on the deck with the freshly washed toddlers smelling clean and laughing while enjoying fresh strawberries from the garden in the summer heat is one of our joys that can not be purchased. These are the moments that cause home grown herbs, gardens and flowers to stay with us during difficult times and pass on for eternity; the moments of love and connection.
My herb plants and many of my seeds came originally from my mother’s garden; whom had received them from her mothers garden; and some from her mother before that. In turn, I will give them to my children, nephews and nieces for their gardens.
Sharing a grown bounty of food with friends – stolen moments from busy lives – is still an important part of our society. Perhaps more so now that we can get anything we want from a number of large, impersonal food chains that are totally disconnected from us. The connection, knowing the goodness that it envelopes, and times shared discussing daily lives are important and cannot be purchased from any store.
You do not need a traditional house with a yard, herbs and vegetables can be grown in small containers or pots as with some of the places I have lived, whereas other places my plants were in the garden. I left plants behind when ever I moved. In a way, the herbs and plants help keep the connection with other people, friends, neighbors and relatives. I have in effect, been carrying my maternal history with me, nurturing and caring for plants as both my mother and grandmother did before me; and hopefully as my children and grandchildren will do after me.
Although my children seem to not pay close attention to my gardening (they would rather skateboard now), over the years, from the time when they were babies, they were outside in the fresh air in the garden whether in a yard, or on a sun deck. They know that no matter where they live, there is always room for a planter of fresh herbs.
When the boys were small, both, mine and their grandmother’s lemon balm grew taller than they and filled the warm summer air with the hint of lemon as they ran past with their arms outstretched and touched it. Hmm… that is a forever, summer memory. My mother used to tell me that her garden and plants grew so well because of the children’s laughter filling the air when they played close by. I never told her how we used to hide in the rows of tall tomato plants but I am sure she knew. I have often thought of this and of her while my children, their cousins and their friends played close by my gardens. Sometimes I would see that the temptation was unbearable and suddenly there would be a spontaneous feast on peas or strawberries (swallowed with much giggling).
When the winter cold sneaks in, I like to snip some of the herbs (a nice mixture of lemon balm, peppermint and lemon thyme) to make a fresh pot of tea and share it with a friend or neighbor. It is a wonderful blend of comfort and rejuvenation.
The plants my mother shared with me have been a symbol of family gatherings, generations of celebrations. The simple pleasures are here to remind us of those who have been a part of the contribution to our lives and to remember that we have a connection to the past, present and future. The closeness while gardening together or canning, even a meager harvest with shared stories and knowledge, will help close the gap between strangers that live on the same street and hopefully become friends. Maybe you and I are connected? I can well imagine how thrilled my grandmother and mother would be to know someone is enjoying a friendly chat over a pot of tea or a shared meal flavored with herbs they had passed on with love.
Meldy lives on Vancouver Island with her twin boys. She is an artist, soapmaker, student of writing and script writing and is involved with a local theatre group.