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December 10, 2013. Fresh herbs. They take so little. They give so much.

Whether you’re a veteran herb gardener or you can’t remember the last time you touched actual soil, you should do this for yourself or someone you love. Because the growing is as good as the eating. And the eating’s great.

The benefits of just-picked basil, for example, go way beyond the immediate flavor sensation. Yes, you get a true luxury food for near-zero cost. Because totally fresh herbs transform otherwise plain dishes into vibrant, special meals.

But first you get to watch them grow. It really is amazing to watch these little green organisms take nothing but light and water and make big, healthy aromatic plants of themselves. Then you get to inhale. Indoors, they perfume the room. Outdoors, you get some sort of aromatherapy benefit whenever you get near them.

I think the ultimate benefit is the plant’s ability to get you to pay attention to it. You’ll be watering it, you’ll be looking at it and smelling it. Finally, you’ll be amazed at how much pleasure you’ll get from taking care of and eating it – and talking about it with anyone who’ll listen. Growing things for yourself can be transformational. It’s a totally hands-on experience that slows you down and lets you appreciate something that’s very simple and unimaginably complicated. Better Cheaper Slower.

Better Cheaper Herb Garden Kit
This easy-to-grow Herb Collection from Renee’s Garden includes clear and complete growing instructions and five seed packets: basil, cilantro, chives, dill and parsley. For $13.95. Seeds that sprout quickly and consistently. Plants that survive and thrive with a little water and sunlight.

If your herb garden gift comes with a BCS Gift Subscription, those herbs’ll have a New Way Every Day to contribute to great meals. The basil (“Profuma di Genova”) will land on Farmers Market ratatouille and Spring Green Pizza and turn into pesto at the end of the season.

The cilantro will want to be a lively part of salsa verde and watermelon-peach ceviche. You’ll have a hard time keeping dill and chives out of salads, sandwiches and eggs. And the flat Italian parsley goes everywhere. I just picked some for the gremolata on my Thanksgiving osso buco.

The whole Better Cheaper Slower Gift Guide

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Cost-Benefit Analysis
Less than a penny per serving for sweet, spicy, highly aromatic herbs that transform simple dishes into vibrant, flavorful meals.

Cost Comparison
About 20 seeds per packet. More than 100 seeds in the Herb Garden Collection. About 15 cents per seed. One basil plant in a 10” pot will produce the equivalent of 15 – 20 bunches over the course of six months. One bunch of fresh basil at the farmers’ market or grocery store will cost between $1.50 and $4.00. Your home grown basil gives you a 99% saving.

Grow your own
I just dug out my 1971 Last Whole Earth Catalog and re-read Wendell Berry’s “Think Little” essay. Here’s a paragraph: “Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating. ” If you still have your copy, check out his accompanying poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”. If not, try his The Gift of Good Land.

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