clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Eulogy for My Neglected Windowsill Herb Garden

Honoring the lives — and deaths — of the forgotten quarantine scallions

Three scallions in a clear cup on a windowsill Shutterstock
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food and Travel Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

Cherished friends,

Thank you for being here to honor the lives of those whose journeys meant so much to us all, and whose stories are, fondly and inevitably, coming to an end. I’m speaking of course of the herbs I planted on my windowsill at the beginning of the pandemic. What remarkable lives they have led. However, due to my negligence and realization that I’m just not that good at growing windowsill herbs and sort of did it just as a thing to do, the time has come to say goodbye.

We first took the herbs, Scallions and Sage and of course baby Celery, home from City Fresh grocery store in March. How fresh and green they all looked that first day, each filled with promise, despite my knowledge that I have managed to kill many an “indestructible” succulent. Still, I tended to these lives with care, watching roots spread in shot glasses full of water, and planting Sage in an old mug while dreaming of the brown butter sauces I’d spoon over future ravioli. My months inside would not end in depression and perhaps scurvy, I thought. Here, my saviors of novel frugality! Here, my hopes.

As the months went on, the garden thrived. Well, not Celery. While I planted her base in shallow water and she grew some leaves, all that really happened was she got a slimy bottom with not much growth. But Sage and Scallions seemed happy. I soon transported Scallions out of their shot glass full of water and into a coffee can full of soil, in hopes that they’d grow bigger and stronger than before. Sage sprouted new leaves from its mug. As go the plants, so goes the nation, I told myself. By the time Scallions grew tall and thick, I’d be congregating maskless with old friends in bars again, subjecting them to my unshielded Scallion breath.

But my garden faced struggle, such as when a bird absolutely plucked one of the Scallion siblings from its coffee can home after I moved it onto the balcony, or when I realized that it’s Summer and I don’t really put Sage in anything except around Thanksgiving. There was the great storm of early July, which nearly drowned Scallions. There were the droughts of mid-April, May, June, and July during which I was just sort of distracted and depressed and forgot to water everything, from which Sage has never quite recovered. And there was the mild panic of late July, in which I realized a recipe called for Scallions, and even though using them in recipes is precisely what I grew them for, I worried by picking one I’d be undoing months of work and somehow jinxing the entire country’s epidemiological progress.

Scallions only really yielded flavorless, hollow greens as I attempted to preserve the white roots, even though that’s the part I wanted, and Sage’s leaves were never big enough to impressively adorn any dish. And so, we bid them farewell. Perhaps on another plane they will find a new destiny. But we can all take heart in knowing they will be reunited with their siblings from around the world: Celery base, Sourdough Starter, and DIY Embroidery Kit. May your memories be a blessing.