Heirloom Herbs


Joy and I just spent all day hanging out at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle for Blogher Food – a national food blogging conference. My belly is full, my brain is spinning, and I’ve got about 20 pages of notes waiting to be deciphered. What a great event! The big theme of the day was TELL YOUR STORY, which, I must admit, I often find challenging. Sometimes it just seems simpler to snap a picture and post a recipe – the what is easier than the why. All week long I’ve struggled to figure out how to write about the most wonderful package I received in the mail, but the story felt too big. Where to begin?

Last Friday. Okay, let’s start there. Last Friday is when the package from my Uncle Dave arrived. A small brown box, hand delivered right to my front door.  The box contained two chive plants – both lovingly wrapped in plastic bags, bubble wrap and newspaper – two divisions from my Uncle Dave & Aunt Linda’s garden in Portland. And these were no ordinary plants, mind you. These chives were HEIRLOOM HERBS.

One  of the divisions came from a garlic chive given to my uncle by a co-worker years ago. The other, a common chive, originated in my grandma’s garden. It is now over 25 years old. 

My grandma died 12 years ago. I miss her so much. She was the person who taught me how to make raspberry jam and homemade biscuits, and how to fry an egg, and so much more.

One of my earliest food memories is waking up in her house and smelling the enticing mix of bacon, fried eggs, and coffee mixed with just a bit of cigarette smoke. I must have been about three years old and somehow I already knew that grandma cooking for us meant one thing – love. Even at the end of her life when she was sick with cancer, she always found the strength to bake me a loaf of bread to take home at the end of a visit.

My grandma grew up on a farm in Oregon during the depression and she was the kind of resourceful cook who could turn the most humble ingredients into a tasty meal. Her standards came straight out of the 1950’s – egg foo young, pot roast, French dips, tuna melts, and the best biscuits and gravy I have ever tasted. She was a master at turning flour, butter and water into something delicious. She was also 6 feet tall and I guess she was my Julia Child. She taught me how to have fun in the kitchen, to be resourceful, to cook without a recipe, and to always use salt.

Now, thanks to my Uncle Dave and Aunt Linda, I am growing my grandma’s chive plant. This just seems amazing to me. A minor miracle! I am so grateful that they took the time to transplant a piece of Gramma’s garden all those years ago and to pass this heirloom on to me.

It’s going to take a little while for these chives to get established in my garden and it will take even longer for me to figure out how to write all of the stories I’d like to share about my grandma. But the important thing is we are settling in.



  1. jacquie says:

    what a wonderful gift to have had passed on to you. you are so very lucky to have known a grandmom’s love and to have such wonderful aunt and uncle. i hope you treasure those people and memories for all the richness they have – and it sounds as though you do.

    thank you for sharing a piece of your story.

  2. Helen Oswald says:

    Can’t believe that I just walked into the house with a handful of chives from the garden, opened my email and found your lovely Heirloom Herb story. Thanks for the Memories!

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