All spring and summer I’ve been humming a snug self-satisfied little tune to myself. Why, you ask?
Because I am growing my own herbs in my back yard. Oh yes, glorious rosemary, sage, and oregano, oh-so-fresh and free for the harvesting to better make my dishes so yummy! Raspberries bursting out of pods and ripening! And thyme, Italian parsley, and cilantro, on the way! But these were to pale in comparison to the prize plant in my herb garden, the crown jewel that was to grow in abundance and make my kitchen floweth over with the deliciousness that would be produced within.
I am speaking of course of that king of herbs (no, really, that’s what the name translates to) — basil!
I was so proud of myself, planting the seeds, watching with delight as the little sprouts poked their heads out of the soil and unfurled themselves, sprouting leaves with exponential abandon.
My dad — gardener extraordinaire — sounded impressed. “I’ve never grown basil from seeds before…. well, intentionally that is.” (I should mention that my parents live in Texas, whose climate basil loves maybe even more than I love chocolate, and at the end of each summer there is a literal basil forest in their garden. Needless to say, they get enough volunteers from the previous year’s flowers and seeds to supply pesto to all of Italy. Twice.) I was well pleased. There was life — it was germination, biology, SCIENCE ITSELF — happening in my own backyard! How cool is that?
Well, before long, my basil got too tall to support itself. “No matter,” I thought, “it’s just these really long (20 hours long) Alaska days. The plant is growing too tall too fast to grow any supporting, er, infrastructure.” So I staked the plants. I had also noticed that some weird other spouts were coming up in the pots. This wasn’t terribly surprising since weeds compose, oh, about 50% of the plant life in my yard, so I pulled those sprouts out, again well pleased with myself. I was keeping invasive plants at bay, thus FURTHERING SCIENCE!
Before long, I noticed the plant itself wasn’t really growing in the shape I thought it would, but having only previously bought basil pre-sprouted and never having experienced BASIL SCIENCE before I figured it was just an awkward teenage phase and it would soon grow into the shape I associated with basil. And the lack of scent in the leaves could totally be explained by the lack of scorching heat in Alaska that the herb loves so much.
These illusions were to crumble like a cookie before me today, when I abruptly stopped singing my little self-satisfied tune. I’m no longer walking tall, proud of my contribution to science. It turns out that those sprouts — the ones that had first appeared in the pots, growing so expediently — were weeds. I’ve been nurturing invasive plants in pots on my back deck, and those smug little bastards were all too happy to keep the wool pulled over my eyes!
And the worst part?
Those sprouts I pulled up in the name of SCIENCE? As photos from the internet were able to verify, (Google Images knows all) those were the real basil sprouts! Oh, the horror. I killed the very thing I was trying to cultivate! Instead of preening a lovely and understated herb, I may as well have been helping along the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. You’d better believe that it was screaming “FEED ME, SEYMOUR!” when I came ’round each day with the watering can (maybe that’s why they call it horticulture. It should really be horrorculture.).
Little green terranean terrorists. You’re about to get a taste of your own medicine tomorrow when you get pulled up and shredded.
And this time, I shall be sprouting the seeds indoors!