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Like many people who love cooking, I keep a few herbs growing on the verandah. Fresh herbs just always add that little hit of wonder in the dishes that they grace. The ones that I keep have changed over the years, depending on what happens to like the microclimate that I’m in at the time, or what little gems have come my way, but I’ve always got something growing. There is an ongoing battle for ownership of the chive pot between me and the cat; he is convinced that the chives are simply a spicy version of cat-grass, and I am convinced that he is a crazy chive-poaching menace, and much stamping of feet and occasional shouting ensues. He leaves most of the other herbs alone, except the mint which suffers intensive sniffing.
The chives I am well pleased with. They represent the sum of my gardening endeavours for the year 2001, a summer that I spent largely incapacitated and lying like a lox on the couch or, from time to time, in the St. Paul’s emergency room hopped up on morphine. At one point, desperate to feel as though I were doing something normal, I clutched my bathrobe around me and staggered out onto the verandah with a handful of chive seeds that I had purchased yet failed to plant the year before. I chucked my handful of seeds at the cobalt blue strawberry-pot that had once housed some English thyme, turned and lurched back in to the couch. Exhausting.
They grew. The first year they were spindly enough that there was an inevitable amount of keel-over of the whisper-fine stems. Even the cat was unimpressed. Since I was far too unwell to attempt any cooking, I simply followed my program of ongoing neglect of the garden at large. Remembering from my mother’s garden that chives get along pretty well without any help and not really caring too much whether or not they survived, I felt free to neglect them.
The next Spring, feeling much better, I surveyed the damage that a year’s hard...