You’ve all heard me bellyache about the food here by now. The locals live on spam and rice. Finding anything fresh at the grocery store is reason to celebrate. There will be days or weeks even when the produce isles run dry and there is not a veggie to be found. Our meals are planned around what fresh thing we can find in the store. Eggplants grow locally so we make lots of curries with those. Beets occasionally pop up so I’ve learned how to make a mean veggie burger by adding black beans and quinoa. Several other dishes have become staples in our house and after eight months here, the variety is becoming increasingly limited.

So naturally I decided to try my hand at gardening!

Before leaving in August to visit home, I planted some tomato seeds in a tire and now have four beautiful plants (though I fear they are beginning to choke each other out and will need to be transplanted soon). I had heard from several people here that no one has had much luck growing tomatoes in Palau. My first fruit split long before it turned red and I was afraid the tomato experiment was going to be another failure. But tomato #2 ripened and was the freshest thing I have eaten in this country. And the color...! We get tomatoes imported here but they are usually already moldy. Their color is more like watered down pink lemonade than red. I had forgotten how very red tomatoes can be! I must be sounding pretty pitiful going on and on about one little tomato like this.

Home-grown tomato and goat cheese on a rosemary and olive oil Triscuit.

Phase two of my gardening attempt happened when I smuggled back some herb seeds from the U.S. I grew myself a nice little garden of basil, cilantro, parsley, and clover. The rosemary and thyme seeds (bought here, imported from China) sprouted and then promptly died.

I can’t even explain how excited I was to have basil and cilantro. I’ve seen basil twice in the store here. I’ve yet to find any cilantro. But that didn’t matter anymore, because it was all in my little garden. Fresh.

It was in my garden, until I went out to water it the other morning, only to find all stems and no leaves. 

Where did all the leaves go?

Every last cilantro, parsley, and clover leaf was gone. Crushed, I wondered if I had forgotten to water it the previous day and it had all wilted. That couldn’t be though, the basil was still green and healthy. Something had had a feast during the night.

I felt like the three bears after they found all their food eaten by Goldilocks. I mean I'm sure it’s about as difficult for bears to obtain porridge as it is for me to find fresh herbs.

Oh and they got tomato #3 as well.

Someone's been eating my tomato. 

Hopefully the herbs grow back. They’re looking pretty pitiful but we shall see. Some little bird out there is eating even better than I am. You win this round, Palau, but I'm determined not to succumb to a diet of processed foods.