Agricultural adventures in a foreign country

This week I cooked a couple of meals with home-grown parsley and coriander. My home-grown parsley and coriander. Somehow I managed to place seeds in soil, water them and care for them enough to see them sprout and grow to full-fledged herbs. Those of you growing tomatoes, peppers or courgettes in your backyard may not be impressed with my feat. But you should be. And here’s why.

Saying I’m not a plant person is an understatement. When I turned 15 or 16 (I can’t remember the exact age), my dad gave me for my birthday a bonsai as old as I was then. That tiny tree lived happily for a decade and a half before I laid hands on it. No more than a few months were needed for the bonsai to dwindle and die on my watch despite my best attempts to care for it.

The Sedum spathulifolium, Cape Blanco (a rock plant) that my co-worker Karen placed on my desk last December is now at the threshold of death. “It needs almost no water, you won’t kill it” she said after I told her the plant would likely dry if I was left to take care of it. It did.


I am not declaring a defeat yet, there are still some green leaves in there!

It gets worse. It was not my first attempt to grow parsley and coriander.

In January, with herb seeds and vases in hand, I went to the nearby garden store here in Munich to buy soil. I came home and I carefully planted the seeds as I had been instructed. For weeks, I watered them and waited for them to grow. Nothing.

Thinking February’s cold snap had killed the seeds (or the fact that I forgot to water them several times), I tried to plant again in the Spring. It was only then, on removing the old soil from the vases, that I realized I was moving not earth, but fertilizer! Words cannot describe the putrid smell emanating from those vases. Imagine fertilizer chemicals (or decaying animal and plant matter — I’m not sure if I bought organic or inorganic fertilizer) brewing in water for weeks under a dry top layer concealing the smell. It was foul!

In my defense, I did not know the German word for soil. Only at the second attempt did I plant my seeds in Erde. And this time they did germinate (!) — possibly because of the small amounts of fertilizer still in the vases — and grew into delicate herbs with a delicious smell.

So yes, I victoriously ate my home-grown parsley and coriander this week. And I’m pleased to say I did not get food poisoning.

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My herb garden!

One thought on “Agricultural adventures in a foreign country

  1. Ioanna

    I think you give yourself too little credit: I have grown tomatoes, raspberries, paprikas, chilis and other stuff, but parsley is a tough one! I still haven’t figured out how to actually make parsley survive in a pot for over a couple of days. And about bonsai: keeping a bonsai alive and healthy is one of the most difficult, time-consuming tasks in gardening. No wonder people dedicate themselves to this hobby, spending endless hours to keep their bonsais alive and prospering. Just imagine what the poor trees have to go through, with their roots made to fit too little pots.


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