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Well before summer, here comes the hot weather. Among the most fearful social repercussions it brings - right after using public transport with no air conditioning - is the extremely risky dinner on the balcony, for which you’re required to perform at your best as cook, decorator and entertainer. And all in a space of perhaps two metres by three.
When it goes well, the guests are your friends, who love you and won’t judge you by the state of your balcony: they’ve seen you in far worse circumstances. But when it goes badly, the guests are friends of friends and your girlfriend’s colleagues. On these occasions, one of the keys to success is preparation.
And the other is greenery.
There’s nothing more impressive and gratifying than asking your guests to pick a few mint leaves for the mojitos or - why not - a sprig of parsley for the pasta with garlic, olive oil and chilli at half past two in the morning, and hearing them sing the praises of your green fingers.
Sadly, though, you live and work in the city, where - I have to remind you - it’s starting to be really far too hot, even for a Mediterranean plant like sage. Besides, you have so little time to spend taking care of your herbs, and even less to read up about them. You know the pretty flowers that came out on your rosemary? There you go: they shouldn’t be there.
The solution I’m recommending will withstand dinner with plant connoisseurs and snobs: if you can’t beat them, cheat.
No-one can judge you if they don’t know what that luxuriant plant on your kitchen windowsill is, right? You’re better off leaving thyme, mint and basil to others: it’s time to invest in a few little-known aromatic plants.
Ever heard of borage? Not only does it have gorgeous purple flowers that add a decorative touch to your balcony and your desserts, but its leaves are delicious in salads, frittatas, soups and garnishes. And the best thing about it? It doesn’t need any special care and it’s fine in direct sunlight.
And talking about decoration: dill could be your next ally on the balcony. Did you know it loves the sun and it can grow to a metre in height? You just need to remember this - besides your wish to keep it alive for a long time because it grows so well - and choose the right pot. It’s perfect in the corner of your balcony and in your next tzatziki.
It’s not rosemary, oregano or marjoram: it’s savory, a plant that loves sun and dry soil - but that doesn’t mean you never have to water it; you know that, don’t you? Its Balkan origins make it extra hardy: this was a plant consecrated to the god Dionysus because of its aphrodisiac properties (according to the ancient Greeks). Try it in the kitchen: it’s great in salads, with vegetables, cheeses and meats.
Last act, final scene: the friend of a friend that you don’t know very well, and who always wants the last word. He’s invited himself, and he roams round the kitchen and the balcony, beer in hand, checking everything out. Haven’t you always wanted to reply to his comment on the state of your parsley with Actually, it’s chervil?