March 28, 2005

Sage, ho!

The basil in the kitchen window is already a half-inch high, and while I was very excited to see it show its little green head a mere five days after I planted it, I have been completely overwhelmed with giddiness at the sight of the newly-sprouted sage in the container next to it.

The seeds, for both the basil and the sage that are planted in the window above my kitchen sink, are seeds that I harvested from the plants that were growing in my garden last year. I am particularly pleased by the idea that I can have a fresh crop of herbs this year, without even the initial paltry outlay of a few dollars for seeds. It's not about the money - although more of it would be nice - it's about the green thumb.

I like to think that I have a green thumb. It's not true, as I've had all kinds of mysterious ailments and other problems (not including the cat's predation of the chives) plague and kill various plants. I've had a Fraser Fir succumb to a mysterious blight that turned it brown in the space of a month, despite my fevered attempts to research a remedy. I've had a thriving patch of English thyme go belly up for no apparent reason. Most recently, I've had a bay tree rust itself into an early grave after years of happy, if not ecstatic, bay leaf production.

I won't even get into the plant-deaths that occurred due to my own carelessness - failing to bring delicate plants inside before the frost, etc. I like to grow plants and trees, particularly when they are useful in cooking, so every year I decide what to grow, and set off with the best of intentions.

The sage plant that I have been nursing along since 1997 died this winter. It was not before its time, although I don't know how long container-sage should live. This particular plant had struggled and survived in the face of over-enthusiastic application of insecticide in its formative stages, poor lighting, bad weather, moss growth, neglect, over-harvesting, overgrowing its pot, and probably a number of other things of which I remain blissfully ignorant. I knew that it was dying. I knew that I could possibly save it, if I tried, but that all previous attempts to save ailing plants (rosemary notwithstanding) had only prolonged their agony. I didn't even try.

I did, however, harvest some big, fat purple seeds from its lavender and white flower tubes last summer. The sage had died back to a single, valiant stalk, so heavily overcome with flowers that it bent over the side of the pot and then struggled upward in a strange s-shaped attempt to reach the sunlight. I admired its strength of character, its determination to survive, and when the seeds were ripe, I saved them in a little envelope. By Thanksgiving, the sage had given up. Almost two weeks ago, I planted four of the seeds in my window-sill container, and now two of them have sprouted.

I am ridiculously pleased about it.

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