We were sitting at the Cheesecake Factory celebrating a girlfriend’s birthday.

The usual girly gifts were handed over and, of course (insert eye roll), mine had to be different.

I got her a Little Stripper.

Not candles or lotion or earrings. Something practical.

Something that will encourage her to get her groove on.

Her gardening groove, that is.

She’d asked me recently about putting her spring garden together and I certainly want to support all things green and beguiling. The Stripper is for harvesting tiny leaves off herbs for her meal.

It will definitely up her game in the kitchen when she takes food from garden to table. There is absolutely nothing sweeter than a home-grown tomato except maybe a home-grown ear of corn. I think she was starting with squash and melons, but if she wants the fastest, easiest bang for her buck, herbs are the clear winners.

I keep fat garden pots on the front porch and my two favorites are finally sprouting up in them.

Crisp fresh basil is a salad to itself. Layer slices of creamy mozzarella, juicy garden tomatoes, and whole basil leaves on a platter and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

This is the flavor of long lazy sunshine days and hot nights full of fireworks.

If there’s pasta of any kind on the table, toss fresh basil at it.

The basic diet of beans, rice and tortillas sings to my childhood heart. I prefer my Mexican food freshened up instead of heated with jalepenos, so I take a pair of scissors to a fistful of cilantro and sprinkle over all possible combinations of Mex meals.

I would add a lime wedge too, but you’ll have to take it out of the beer bottle.

Not many things are sadder than girlfriends who ended up moving north, east, or across the globe, where Mexican food is a dim memory found in the back of grocery store freezers.

Sometimes, I’ll send a photo of a plate of fish tacos or maybe chile rellenos to a girlfriend in food exile.

Just trying to be friendly.

I put in two rosemary plants because I use it every other week on chicken, but the poor things don’t get enough sunshine. When I have time, I’m going to plant cuttings in the ‘badlands’ of our backyard. Rosemary can become a mighty hedge if you abuse it with hot sun and scant water.

The lemon thyme stays pretty constant. That gets thrown on chicken, too, with lemon pepper and garlic powder. And a couple of lemon slices from our lemon tree if I get real fancy about it.

The mint pot holds both peppermint and spearmint. I routinely rip the stuff out and throw it away, so it knows it’s loved. It will take over the universe if it escapes the pot and we both know it. I don’t currently use the mint for anything but a room freshener, but this summer I can garnish your lemonade, juleps, and iced tea with it.

I added two new herbs this year: lemon verbena and tarragon.

I have no idea what to do with them but they seem happy enough to join the party.

Don’t let your meals go topless. Grow herbs and use them lavishly.

Your rambunctious guests will appreciate the shameless seductive smells luring them into the dining room.

Happy birthday, girlfriend.

You’re welcome.

Comment (1)

  • pamela schlottman| May 5, 2015

    You have inspired me. My herbs always die because i forget to water them. But this time I will try and do better. Where can I get a little Stripper? I got hungry just reading your post. Keep it up.

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