Spring Onion is my discovery this growing season. Even though, it’s not at all difficult to buy spring onions in Dutch supermarkets, growing them has some plus points.
I don’t remember how I came up with the idea of planting this common ingredient of Vietnamese cuisine. It seemed like one day I watched a tutorial video on YouTube and BAM.
I followed the guide and put the white stalk with roots into a glass of water. The water needed changing every other day, and that’s what I did. They grew longer root and taller on the top. When Ian saw my glass, he suggested that I should put the spring onions in the soil as it surely would be better for the plant. He was right.
Soon enough, small pots of spring onion dotted around our garden. Instead of buying a bunch every week, I now only get supermarket spring onions if a recipe asks specifically for its white parts. My spring onion might not be as mighty, and in oversize as the one I get from Albert Heijn, the biggest supermarket chain here, but it tastes a lot better being freshly cut from my little balcony garden.
Do you know how many types of basil there are?
In Vietnam, we often eat all sorts of herbs together either fresh or with noodle soup. I could tell the taste of different herbs apart but I didn’t know all the names. I had no clue if there was more than one type of basil.
The first shop I worked in was a Thai mini supermarket in Newcastle, England. Every Tuesday and Thursday, there would be fresh herbs coming in, and the owner always stressed how important it was to display them nicely and openly. At first, I didn’t understand the reason for all the fuss. They were just herbs. Man, I was wrong. Tuesdays and Thursdays were always busy because guests came in especially for those fragrant leaves. The Thai basil, both holy and sweet, were popular.
If you go to a typical supermarket in England, you will only find Greek basil. They have a lighter green colour. Their leaves are round with a milder taste. Those are the ones that I end up growing. I use them for everything that calls for basil from a Thai sauce to Italian pesto. I know it’s not by the book but I am a go-with-the-flow kind of chef. Actually, I wanted to grow Thai basil this year, but the website I got my seeds from was always out of stock for this Asian special.
I started growing coriander because of my food waste aversion. As I cook a lot of Vietnamese and Thai dishes, the leaves of a coriander plant (or cilantro in American), is often needed but not in a substantial quality. The fragile foliage doesn’t keep well in the fridge, though. After three or four days, coriander leaves might not have gone black and mushy but are likely to lose their signature smell.
One day a few years ago, after throwing away so many half-used, supermarket-packed coriander bunches, I decided it was enough.
The first transition was to buy coriander pots from the supermarket. They did last a bit longer but hardly over a week. Ian told me that those containers were designed to give shoppers the maximum leaves in the smallest areas. They look like they offer good value for your money, but that’s all. You often can’t keep grow those plants. It’s a good job I married a country boy, right?
My problem was left half-solved.
One day, on the spur of the moment, I bought a big plastic pot and some soil from my local florist and repotted a supermarket pot. Somehow, the plants flourished. Perhaps it’s my beginner’s luck as later when I started to read all the gardening guides, they often say corianders don’t take repotting well and usually bolt to flowering.
I put the repotted pot out on our balcony, watered it and untangled the fragile branches after each windy day. They grew taller, thicker and so fragrant that I decided coriander was my new black.