Monday, March 16, 2015

Basil

Basil is a welcome addition to my herb garden.

My basil is coming right along. I've found that once established, meaning it has gotten used to where it is planted and is thriving, it grows quickly. And that's good because basil is one of my favorite herbs. I love bruschetta, which is a popular appetizer in Italian restaurants. You can make your own by layering thinly sliced, toasted french bread, a slice of fresh mozzarella, a thin slice of tomato and a basil leaf. Some people run it under the broiler. I just have it "raw." Yum.

Basil comes in more than 100 species. I am growing Genovese basil, which will get 14 to 20 inches tall. I got this kind because it's slow to bolt. Bolting is when a plant starts putting on flowers, and you want to harvest before this happens and makes your plant bitter. This applies to broccoli and basil and any number of other food plants. A bolted herb will be past its peak and probably dry and bitter.

Under the right conditions, basil is very easy to grow here in Zone 9 and other zones, as well. Basil needs full sun and a moderate amount of water.

One thing I just found out is that you can encourage the normally spindly basil plant to become more bushy by pinching off the stem tips. I'm definitely going to do that as it grows. It'll be a good way to get an early taste of this Genovese basil.

You can find many recipes for pesto, for which a major ingredient is fresh basil. You also use pine nuts (or walnuts), garlic and olive oil. I use the food processor. Pesto is very good as a dip or as a pasta sauce.

Basil is a member of the very aromatic mint family. And did you know that "basil" means "king"? I didn't either. Folklore said that basil could only be cut by the king and his golden sickle. Good grief. Don't you wish you didn't know that?

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