Are you anything like me and find the price of herbs in the supermarket on this fine island (Singapore) to be exorbitantly expensive? If yes, then you will most definitely find this post to be of interest.
As pricy as the packets of freshly cut herbs in the refrigerated section were, I strangely found myself all too often reaching for the even more expensive pots of growing herbs. My logic was that I could just take what I need from the plants and continue to grow them on in their pots, enabling me to have a fresh supply of herbs as and when I needed (and a pretty garden on my windowsill to boot). After a time, I realised that this was a pipe dream and a false sense of economy, because try as I might to take good care of these little pots, they would quickly start to wither and die, sometimes before I had even begun to use them in my cooking.
Had I watered too much? Too little? Was there not enough sun? I had many thoughts and theories. I fancied myself as a bit of a green fingered gal (and still do), so I told myself that it wasn’t me but the plants.
I decided that there was no other way than to get myself a few good packets of seeds to grow my own edibles, but having moved apartments very recently, I hadn’t had the chance to start them off when I found I was in need of herbs once again (if only I had been more organised and started those seeds off a few weeks ago). Standing in the supermarket and looking at the options before me, I had a moment of optimism, refusing to be defeated by past failures, I told myself that this time it would be different, so into my basket the potted herbs went.
Not two days after getting them home, signs of their demise were clear to see. A whole Thyme plant dried up and turned crispy within a week and whole stems from the basil were drooping and dying at a rate of 3-4 per day.
I realised drastic measures where going to have to take place to prevent my basil from ending up with the same fate as its Thyme friend (and the rest of my supermarket herb pots – RIP), I snipped off the remaining healthy basil stems at the base and stuck them into a cup of water (there where only 5 left at this point).
Then as if by magic the stems stopped dying and in less than a week, roots started to appear. Another week later, a healthy root system was formed and I was able to plant the individual stems into a pot of soil…as we speak, they are doing well (awww, even plant babies are cute).
Below is a pic of them after just two days in the soil. New healthy leaves are sprouting. At this rate I might be able to get a mini harvest in a few weeks.
In truth I’ve started a fair few plants like this in the past (by putting cuttings in water to develop roots before planting in soil), but for some reason its taken me this long to treat supermarket bought basil this way. Now I know its definitely not a fault with the plants but possibly something to do with the soil as keeping them in it meant they where not able to absorb enough water to keep them alive (I’m still refusing to believe that it could be me!). Having said that I’ve also noticed sometimes after a few harvests of even seed started basil that suddenly the whole stem would die back too – but this is possibly due to my occasional overly vigorously harvesting of the plant and depleting its energy.
So, I’m hoping that by using the method I’ve just shared, I will be able to keep an on-going supply of basil, even if the parent plant dies back or becomes too woody or tired to produce healthy tasty leaves, saving me trips to the supermarket and spending way too much money on herbs. I have the bug now and am interested to see if the same will work on other supermarket bought herbs and produce too. Basil and other herbs are great plants to have in the garden or a pot on the kitchen windowsill as they produce a lovely scent too. Why don’t you give it a go and grow some of your own, be it from seed or a cutting? As always I’d love to see the results and get tips from your successes.
Coming in the next few weeks I’ll be making a start on my balcony garden, follow Ordinary People to see what I grow and watch the progress.
Image credit : All images Anna Hui
Note: Apologies for the lack of pictures on this post, I wasn’t originally planning to write about this subject. I will however update with pictures in the coming weeks so that you can see the progress.