A colleague asked me recently, “Does your garden look like that?” This was like being asked, “Does your body look like Gisele Bundchen’s?” “Uh… no!” Not by a long shot.
Where I work, landscaping companies come over every few months and give our surroundings a complete facelift. Little hills of compost are raked over planting beds and arrays of perfect perennials are planted in precise rows by an army of professionals.
Recently they have started building these beautiful enclosed kitchen gardens in unused spaces – high raised beds of wood or tastefully rusted iron planters surrounding a gravel-laid courtyard, Adirondack chairs, canvas umbrellas, a gurgling fountain, and the most lush, delectable vegetable plants punctuated here and there with a flowering plant in full bloom. Not a single bug-ravaged leaf, snaking hose or seedling pot is ever in evidence. Sitting there is to lose oneself in a warm, languid summer day in a European country of your choice. “That” was one of these gardens.
I don’t know about you, but my gardens never have and likely never will look like that. Our resident snails are indestructible and although I never see them, I have a feeling if I stayed out too long in the evening, I would find pieces of my body missing. I plant seeds, eagerly wait for the seedlings to emerge and the very next day find them mowed down to a pitiful nub.
I work hard on the garden but the proofs are everywhere – our wrought iron chairs jostle bags of compost and poop of different animals that I am usually too tired to put away. Our fountain stayed dry all of last year because of the drought. Seedlings are slowly emerging in extremely uneven rows. Two brilliant green hosepipes proudly declare their existence. It’s not a picture-perfect garden, but its a happy one. Much like my body.
Now, there is one plant that would make any busy/tired/novice gardener look good. Sadly, most people have never heard of it, certainly never seen or tasted it. Still, it is super easy to grow, delicious and nutritious, with an impressive resume of health problems it can cure – from digestive issues to dandruff, and also good for nursing mothers.
So what is this plant? Fenugreek! Botanical name Trigonella foenum-graecum
Bunches of fenugreek leaves, which look a lot like clover, and the seeds, which are used as a spice, can both be found in Indian grocery stores. The leaves are too pungent to be eaten raw as in a salad, but cooked they have a warm, hearty flavor which enhances anything you might add it to, much like truffles. It plays especially well with spinach; substituting a third of the normal quantity of spinach with fenugreek leaves in a soup or a casserole will kick its taste up several notches.
I first grew it when a kindly relative sprinkled a handful of seeds over my spent tulip bed. Within weeks, I had a lovely green bed of fenugreek that I harvested for weeks, since it doesn’t bolt easily. I have been growing fenugreek in my garden every year since. Germination rate is very good, irrespective of weather, snails for the most part leave it alone, and especially important for us Californians, it is quite drought tolerant. An all-round super-plant.