of Heavenly Basil
Is there anything better than harvesting bundles of fresh Basil from your garden and bringing them inside to wash them and strip the leaves from the stems? It anoints your hands and fills your kitchen with the overpoweringly wonderful scent that is the essence of summer freshness. Basil's rich floral bouquet, tinged with hints of clove and licorice, is essential in pasta sauces, pizzas and pesto, and is a flavorful adornment for goat and mozzarella cheeses, Tomatoes, Garlic and silky olive oils.
Growing a bountiful supply of Basil is an easy and inexpensive luxury. Just a few seedlings will yield more Basil than you could possibly use (though you'll likely try.) Its fresh, delicate leaves, rich in volatile oils, bruise easily, which is the reason why bunches of Basil often appear so sad and defeated in the supermarket. Growing your own is definitely the way to go!
1.To start Basil indoors, sow the seed about six weeks before your spring Frost-Free Date (find yours HERE). Provide heat and good ventilation, and give them 12 to 15 hours of bright light each day. Avoid overwatering. Before transplanting the seedlings into the garden, harden them off by putting them outdoors in a sheltered location for a few hours each day for a week to 10 days, gradually lengthening the time outdoors. This will help them to avoid transplant shock. Hold off transplanting until night time temperatures are reliably above 55°F. Basil is a serious heat lover. Just talking about a light frost can be enough to kill it, and if it doesn't succumb outright, it's growth can be so stunted that it will never fully develop. Once the weather is warm and settled, Basil seeds can also be sown directly into the garden. Thin them out so the mature plants will stand about 10" apart.
TIP: During the growing season, the more Basil you harvest, the more your plants will produce. Pinching off flower stalks also encourages bushier, more productive plants.
You Can Never Have Too Much Basil
Growing the many different flavors and types of Basil available from seed treats us to a culinary trip around the world right in our own kitchen garden. Try a few of these Basil varieties and experiment with their luscious flavors all season long. Can't decide? Try our Culinary Basil Garden, a discounted collection of seven wonderful varieties.
This larger-leaved, (2" or more) Italian Basil has spicy-fragrant leaves. It is powerfully aromatic and classically popular for pesto! The sturdy plants grow to 24" tall. (OP.)
Bonazza Genovese Basil
New! This Genovese-type Basil has a compact growth habit and great flavor, with dark green leaves that store well and have excellent Fusarium and Botrytis resistance. (OP.)
Purple Sweet Basil
Purple-red leaves on 18", bushy plants create attractive contrast in both salads and in the garden. Purple Sweet has a spicy note that makes a great purple-tinted basil vinegar. (OP.)
Siam Queen Thai Basil
Vietnamese cooks use this variety to garnish soup made with rice noodles and Bean Sprouts as well as in pungent Thai curries. It has ornamental purple-on-reverse leaves and strong purple stems! (OP.)
Miniature Fino Verde has a spicy-sweet taste and is terrific since it's tiny leaves don't need to be minced. Its compact, rounded mounds of light green teensy-weensy leaves are pretty and tasty. (OP.)
Sweet Broadleaf Basil
This traditional, 18" tall, wide-leaf type is imported straight from Italy. Grow lots for sauces, garnishes, salads and heavenly pesto! Freeze pesto for winter, when your meals could use some zip. (OP.)
Napolitano has absolutely huge, light green, crinkled, savoyed leaves. Richly flavored, these leaves are perfect for serious pesto makers: picking these huge leaves makes annual pesto production a snap! (OP.)
Round Midnight Basil
These 1' - tall, bushy plants have fragrant, dark, burgundy-purple leaves. They're stunning planted in an edible border. Both the leaves and pale pink flowers are pretty and tasty in tossed salads. (OP.)
Marseillais Dwarf Basil
Heralded as the best flavored variety ever, this compact French Basil has proportionately large leaves with a wonderfully intense flavor. Perfect for containers, it is a must-grow for Basil affectionados. (OP.)
A tropical combination of zesty lime and sweet Basil, Lime Basil is loved by innovative cooks who add its mild flavor to grilled fish, seafood, salad, pasta, garden salads and poultry dishes. Perfumed, 2", light green leaves grow on compact, mounding plants. (OP.)
Small leaves with a pungent, lemony scent adorn compact, mounding plants growing up to 24" tall. It makes an unusual spicy herb vinegar or may be dried in sachets for your closets. Lemon Basil pesto is outstanding: use 1/3 regular Basil to 2/3 lemon Basil. (OP.)
Mexican Spice Basil
AKA Cinnamon Basil, it is the most ornamental variety of Basil. A spicy-scented, 18", compact plant similar in habit to regular sweet Basil, it has dark green, glossy foliage and lavender flowers. Its highly aromatic leaves have a complex, warm cinnamon flavor. (OP.)
Favorite Basil Pesto
We think that making pesto is the best way to preserve Basil's gorgeous color and full flavor. Pesto is an easy and delicious addition to pasta sauces, soups, sandwiches and chicken breast sautés. Need a quick hors d'oeuvre? Press soft goat cheese in a little baking dish and top it with a thin layer of pesto. Heat it until just bubbling and serve it with crackers, crostini or pita chips.
1 1/2 cups packed Basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 Garlic cloves
Wash and dry the Basil leaves. Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Store soon after making it, before its gleaming verdant green color looses its brilliance.
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Till next time this is Becky Litterer Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa