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To buy or not to buy, that is the question

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A chef shared with this writer that the usual three kinds of herbs that restaurants look for are often basil, rosemary and thyme. All three have distinct aromas and flavors. All three can be grown at one’s backyard urban farm. Some even grow them literally at the kitchen counter beside a window that is directly reachable by sunlight. For indoors, supplemental light is an option.

Interestingly, of the three herbs, all are difficult to find fresh, perhaps with the exception of basil which has a more regular –– but still erratic –– presence at the local grocery store. To make matters worse, their respective packaging often only indicates when the herbs were packed but not when they were harvested.

Thus, there’s no way of telling if they are already far from freshness or not. This tragedy is affirmed once you open the package and find, underneath a first layer of still fresh-looking leaves,  that the remaining leaves are either battered or spoiled already, unusable.

THYME can be grown at the backyard urban farm as well.

 

ROSEMARY grows well in soil-less flood and drain media beds.

To add insult to injury, the price tag can be overwhelming. A kilogram of fresh rosemary, assuming that you can find it at the local store, is usually within the range of P600 to P700 per kilogram.
Basil is also around that range (same with mint), but when it comes to thyme, well, this writer has yet to find thyme being sold fresh at groceries. No doubt, however, that it will not be cheap.

There is also lack of transparency as to where the herbs are sourced. For example, you can never trace them back to a specific farm and see how they were grown, and check if harmful pesticides and other chemicals were used on them. Neither can you be sure that the herbs that you will eat were handled hygienically as it traveled from farm to gate, then to the bagsakans, and finally to the market or groceries where they are purchased by customers.

Given this situation, one must ask, “to buy, or not to buy?” And, consequently, “why not simply grow your own?”

Perhaps due to its Mediterranean origins, rosemary doesn’t like excessive water.

The easiest to grow is basil; it even takes effort to actually put its life to an end. Plus it’s a prolific grower and must be pruned every week. This means that you can have pesto on a weekly basis or use basil leaves for different kinds of recipes regularly. And you have lots of basil options: Genovese, sweet, holy, or Thai. Plus, they are easy to propagate through cuttings. They root fast and have a high survival rate upon transfer.

The same cannot be said for rosemary, which a lot of backyard farmers end up —- unintentionally —– killing with too much care. Perhaps due to its Mediterranean origins, rosemary doesn’t like excessive water, and that is why the potting medium used must drain well. Keep it out of the rain. For those using soil-less agriculture techniques (ex. aquaponics), it’s better to grow rosemary in media beds with a flood and drain system to prevent the roots from being too wet all the time.
As for thyme, we’ll cover that next thyme.

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