Every spring, I look forward to playing outside all summer (some people call it yard work). In among the flowers and trees in my little backyard playground, I grow a few herbs — basil, oregano, sage, chives, thyme and parsley — and, of course, a tomato plant. Last summer’s parsley plant actually survived the winter, much to my surprise, and it’s a lovely dark green lacy ball in the midst of my perennials. The chives put up cheerful little purple pom-poms in early summer, and the glossy bright green of the basil looks sleek and sophisticated next to the white-streaked leaves of the variegated coralbells. They’re all as beautiful in my garden as they are tasty in our salads.

curly parsley

Hyacinth or herb?

Didn’t a poet write something about how if you have only two loaves of bread left, you should sell one and buy hyacinths to feed your soul?  I think the poet was hinting at how the whole person needs to be nourished — both body and soul.

The office building where I work has a spot outside the parking garage with a few tables and chairs where people enjoy their lunch outside.  A pair of big planters make the concrete patio a little friendlier, especially since the management puts some care into their seasonal plantings.  A couple of summers ago, the planters were overflowing with colorful foliage — and a closer look revealed that this riot of color and texture came from a variety of lettuces and other leafy vegetables. I thought that was a terrific idea, but one of my colleagues was appalled. Edible plants as ornamentals? What a waste, he growled; it’s a crime.

Last summer, the Hunger Leaders’ Gathering in Florida visited an organic hydroponic farm in Florida, and I saw more planters overflowing with gorgeous foliage. (The county extension agent complimented the farmer on his lovely ruffly red leaf lettuce, and he answered, “Thank you. I come out and curl them myself every morning.”) They really were spectacular — lettuces, bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries — all kinds of beautiful and fragrant plants cascading out of their tiers of planters.

A backyard gardener who admires the beauty of her herbs and then puts them in her salads. A building manager who made a patio more pleasant with planters filled with leafy vegetables instead of flowers. An organic farmer whose fragrant and well-tended crops glow with color and texture.

Hyacinths? Herbs?