I was sure that January’s frost had killed all of my herbs, but no, the stubborn things are resurrecting themselves. The chives came back first, healthy spires. The old, sprouting garlic bulbs I’d planted as experiments were never damaged in the first place. What are they? Green garlic? Garlic chives? I didn’t snip at them all winter, and they just get longer and more spiraled.
The oregano is coming back, creeping up the sides of his own pot. I cut back the dead branches– so dead the leaves were too black to even use in cooking. Now there are tiny starts of leaves clustering together.
But the zombie star here is the spearmint. She has her humble beginnings– one of those Trader Joe’s buckets. Originally there was spearmint, English thyme, and stevia. The thyme was the first to go, strangled out by both the stevia and the mint. Eventually, though, the stevia was killed by the mint and the Fresno heat. I thought for sure the mint had met her match, though, in January’s big frost.
This last frost was so hard that I almost killed myself on the front steps. That clear sheet of ice was so treacherous that even though I had just warned my husband to be careful of it as he maneuvered his bicycle outside, I stepped on it myself and went flying! I held onto one of the porch supports for dear life. We’re from Fresno, we get excited about raindrops. Ice is just for drinks around here.
But I should have known that my spearmint would be hardier than all of us. She looked completely dead in her plastic, fake terra cotta bucket– but almost overnight she sprouted leaves and new sprigs, and every day those leaves get bigger and bigger. Just now, while checking on the dog’s water dish, I noticed that the spearmint has somehow jumped her pot! New sprigs are in the dirt, mixed in with the grass. Just to be sure, I picked a leaf and squished it between my fingers. She’s had babies.
I butcher the mint every few weeks when she is in her heyday, because it’s surprisingly hard to find dried spearmint in Fresno (unless you go to an Armenian deli or mini-mart) and I use a lot of it when I make Greek meatballs or other beef dishes. I tried the packets of mint you can find with the Mexican seasonings, the ones usually next to the corn husks and big dried peppers– here in Fresno, those are on the supermarket end caps. [Sometimes I wonder about supermarkets in other states. Can you just get tamale ingredients at any old supermarket in other states? I suspect not, but I've lived here my whole life and can take these things for granted, THANK GOD.] But the Mexican mint (made in the US, maybe? I don’t know) had mouse fur in it! Gross! I could just imagine whatever mechanical scythe they use reaping up mice and mint together. Maybe if I was really lucky, I’d find a skull? At any rate, I wasn’t going to buy the Mexican mint anymore.
Then I tried getting mint from my CSA box. They offer all kinds of dried and fresh herbs, and it’s good stuff. I wrote on their Facebook page and asked them if their dried mint was peppermint or spearmint, and they replied it was spearmint– but when I got it it was too… minty. It’s as if a few rogue peppermints found their way into the spearmint patch. What. The. Heck. I made meatballs and they tasted faintly of peppermint tea. My husband and kid thought they tasted all right, but I kept tasting tea. During the dark months of winter I still buy mint from them though, because at least there’s no mouse fur in it.
But now my scraggly, stubborn girl is back and soon I’ll be able to harvest a bunch of real spearmint, dry it, and make non-tea-tasting meatballs. YAY!
This is what I was doing this morning– besides fixing the DVD player and sticking pokey things up the vacuum cleaner’s bum, trying to clean it out. Taking an inventory of the garden, seeing what really died and what has returned to life, and it felt like Easter, which is appropriate, since today is the first day of Lent. Christmas is great, but it’s Easter that has the most meaning, because that idea of resurrection is so irrevocably tied to Nature that you can have your varying ideas about God and Religion and all the differences don’t really matter. Because every Spring there is a resurrection. Plants come back after seeming to be dead. There’s nothing to argue about there. And it’s a miracle.