I am sincerely loving my new job and being back home. Although I was nervous about this decision, the proximity to my mom and ability to reconnect with old friends has made my choice entirely worthwhile. One of the great perks of moving back home is that my mom is less than a five-minute drive away. Our schedules are a little different, so we’ll take turns dropping off odds and ends and groceries at each other’s places throughout the week when we’re in a pinch or need some company. It’s pretty much the best.
My mom has a small balcony off of her kitchen on the second floor of her condo where she grows a few pots of herbs and a small key lime tree. On my way home from work last week, I decided to swing by and cut a few handfuls of fresh herbs for my osso buco rather than paying for old, wilted bundles at the grocery store. I didn’t think much of it at the time, especially since one of Florida’s notorious afternoon thunderstorms was quickly approaching, as I was trying to decide how much I needed off of which plant. I shoved my fragrant, green loot into a paper bag and somehow made it home without getting rained on.
A few days after cooking the osso buco and posting my recipe, my mom called me and asked if I had noticed anything going on with her parsley while I was pilfering her herb garden. I told her about how I was in such a hurry snipping sage, rosemary, chives, thyme, etc., that I hadn’t had time to notice much of anything other than the menacing black clouds drifting closer and closer to the porch.
“Well… I asked because I think the caterpillars are back,” she said.
Around this time last year, I wasn’t taking graduate courses over the summer and had decided to come home and intern for a few months. It just so happened that my mom’s miniature herb garden became covered in what appeared to be small bird droppings, but upon closer inspection they proved to be tiny caterpillars, or the larvae of the Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly. Each species of butterfly favors a particular kind of plant on which to lay their eggs, and the Eastern Black Swallowtail prefers plants in the carrot family. This includes dill, fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace, and, of course, parsley.
Last year I was able to see them absolutely decimate my mom’s once lush parsley plants, grow into huge, fat caterpillars, and then quietly inch away to form their chrysalises in solitude. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there to see the butterflies emerge and fly away, but I’m hoping that I get the chance this year, because they’re back!
This is only the second year that my mom and I have had our humble herb porch transformed into a butterfly nursery, but second to fresh herbs for roasting a chicken with, this is the best thing to come out of it so far.
I admit that this post isn’t directly food-related, but I consider it to be another prime example of the benefits of growing your own herbs and having them on hand whenever you need them. They are pretty much always in better shape than anything you can find at the store, and if you take care of them, most varieties will last quite a long time (so long as no butterflies decide your plants are the prime spot for spawning the next generation!)
I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the butterflies’ progress. Have a splendid weekend, everyone!