A Thyme for Herbs: Make Memories and Meals

Cooking builds bonds, makes memories, and shares tradition.

Cooking with fresh ingredients creates strong memories, usually with family and friends. I remember picking tomatoes with my father at five years old. I also recall picking blackberries with my brother in a local vacant lot before it was bought and built upon. I’ll never forget the way the fresh fruit smelled in warm summer sun.

Smell forms powerful memories.

We’ve all experienced it — you step onto a sandy beach for the first time in a long time and inhale the damp, salty ocean air. Suddenly, you’re thrown back into a time when you built sand castles next to the ocean and everything was easy.

Or perhaps your family owned a hard-wood manufacturing company. With the occasional whiff of sawdust, you’re 10 years old helping your father run the business.

So, why does this happen? Well, psychology explains it is “odor-evoked autobiographical memory.”

The science behind this is interesting: Humans contain more receptors for smell than for any other sense. Brain anatomy allows smell to be processed at the front of the brain first, in the olfactory bulb. Information about processed odors are then highly organized and connected with two areas that form emotion and memory: the amygdala and hippocampus.

I love science and the whole process fascinates me; however, there’s something much more human about this whole thing — individuality.

Memories define us

People experience the same event differently. Such experiences are built upon a mixture of personality and emotional intelligence.

Memory rests at the intersection of subjectivity and objectivity. We know how a memory is processed, but we don’t understand why the memory was processed (except for our own memories, of course). It’s what makes us human.

Since smell is associated with the strongest memories, it makes sense that people have strong memories involving cooking.

Olfactory Bulb, I’d like you to meet Garlic Bulb

For me, its garlic. Its distinct smell, both raw and cooked, have created some of my strongest and best memories.

As soon as I smell it, I’m immediately pulled into my grandmother’s warm house on a snowy holiday where I help peel raw garlic for homemade sauce. Or into my house, greeted by my mother’s Chicken Florentine after ballet lessons in the fall. There, it’s minced and spread across warm spinach.

Cooking brings people together, and it usually establishes tradition among family members. I don’t believe I would have such strong memories associated with garlic if garlic powder was used for cooking instead — plus, I’m not sure how potent that is in the long run.

If you would like to have scents from fresh herbs in your home that could make for a memorable environment, you should consider planting an herb garden. That way, you will have everything you need for cooking right outside of the kitchen.

The herbs can be planted in the year or in pots right outside of the kitchen. Few things are more satisfying than a Caprese salad with basil pulled right from the backyard.

Any herb can be grown at home, but a few that I recommend are rosemary, chive, basil, thyme, and of course, garlic. These five ingredients are a staple in several spring and summer recipes and the fresh flavors are irreplaceable.

Herb gardens are not a ton of work

For the most part, herb gardens are pretty low maintenance. Much of the work will take place at the beginning when the herbs are first being planted. Some plants don’t even need to be planted every year, so they require even less maintenance.

Plants such as rosemary and chives are perennials– one of those low maintenance plants that survive even through winter months. They don’t need to be replanted annually. Initial planting can be done with seeds. These cost-effective herbs can grow as tall as 3–4 feet and do well in large pots.

Basil is planted from seeds that can be purchased at a store, and do need to be replanted annually. Specific planting instructions are included on the seed packet. It is best to wait until warmer weather because they flourish in warm soil. Basil usually grows to 2 feet high, while parsley reaches 1 foot.

Garlic should be planted in the fall, at least 12 inches into the soil. This will give the bulbs room to flourish underground.

As for thyme, seeds can also be scattered. This flavorful perennial plant can grow up to 2 feet high.

Choosing the right pot

Herb planting pots can be made from either plastic or clay. No matter which kind of material is chosen, it is important that there are holes in the pots for drainage. The holes are critical to plant health because it allows water in the soil to drain and make oxygen available for root growth.

Soil can be placed directly in the pots and packed down for proper drainage. Chive, garlic, basil and thyme will grow in typical garden soil. However, rosemary does better in gritty soil because it is a woody plant. A fertilizer should also be purchased for all herbs. An organic herb or vegetable fertilizer is recommended, but any type will get the job done.

Placing the herbs

Rosemary prospers in a sheltered sun location. This means you can place planted rosemary against a house or under a porch. Locations like this will help protect the plant from damaging wind.

Thyme, chives, and garlic thrive in full sun. Exposure to the sunlight for at least 6 hours a day will advance growth tremendously.

Basil needs at least 3 hours in the sun and should be watered when the soil is dry to touch, or in the morning when the weather is going to be especially hot. The soil should be around 70°F for best growth.

Planting herbs near the kitchen is a simple task that goes a long way. Your friends and family will thank you when they experience the bursting flavor, and create long-lasting memories through the fresh scents.

Years from now, the smell of fresh herbs will allow you to travel back in thyme to this season and you can relive wonderful summer memories.

Personally, I love knowing that I’ll always have garlic-ridden moments with the people I love most to look back on and cherish.

NOTE: This post originally appeared on CurbAppeal.house.

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