I planted some basil seeds this spring in a large terracotta pot near the kitchen, and for days I've been going out with a magnifying glass to check on the progress. For twelve long days I've been fretting about what I'd done wrong: The seeds are too deep; the seeds are too shallow; the soil's too wet; the soil's too dry. Maybe it's the wrong kind of soil to begin with. Why didn't I take out farm insurance?
But this morning there they were - tiny little green shoots poking up through the soil. And in about three or four weeks from now we should have nice plump basil leaves whenever we need them. We use this spice constantly around here. Of course you can buy it all year round in most supermarkets - three or four sprigs for about four or five dollars.
The problem with that is that once cut from the plant, the stems and leaves go bad really fast and you find yourself running back and forth to the market two or three times a week just for basil. So having a nice healthy plant on hand where you can snatch as many leaves as needed, one recipe at a time, will be a big time and money saver around here.
The origin of the word basil, both from the Greek and Latin roots, relates to royalty, and therefore a herb fit for kings. And while it's from the mint family, it has a mildly-spicy peppery flavor. For cooking, like the Italians we put it into all types of pasta sauces (tomato, cream, or olive oil); in marinades for fish and chicken; and in soups of every known variety. Even in the slow cooker with a pot roast and vegetables, we drop it in at the last minute to give it an extra kick. And who doesn't know that basil is the main ingredient in pesto sauce?
As a garnish, we shred it with kitchen scissors and sprinkle it on top of pasta sauces, on baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and rice dishes. We even scramble it into eggs, and it's great inside a grilled cheese sandwich.
My rich employer, who wants to live forever of course, is well aware of basil's health benefits and the internet is full of information on the anti-oxidant effects and cardiovascular benefits.
But it's the flavor of fresh basil that's made it the king of herbs - and it's been with us in India and Asia for over 5,000 years that we know of.
So am I happy to have fresh basil on hand? You bet! (The only thing I have to worry about now is a devastating drought - like when I forget to water.)
Anyhow, thanks for stopping by this evening,
PS: Dried basil in a spice jar is a poor substitute. Not only are the health benefits of fresh herbs gone, but it tastes pretty much like hay.
Hello, Andrew. I assume you're talking about sweet basil, right? My family loves this herb too, and I have some growing, with leaves budding out already. But we're all the way down in Miami. Don't forget to water! MarionReplyDelete
Yes, Marion. I should have made that clear. I like the other varieties of basil (more citrus like), but sweet basil is the best, and it's what the Italians use. Thanks for dropping in and commenting -- and I'm glad your basil is already in full bloom! AndrewDelete
Dear Andrew I really enjoy the topics you write about ! Good Luck with Your Basil............Don't forget to water it and enjoy !!!!KEKReplyDelete
Hi KEK. The thing about basil is, that with not enough water, the entire plant looks immediately, instantly droopy! And I'm relying upon not only myself but also the groundskeepers and house staff to notice if such a nightmare should occur!Delete
Thanks for stopping by.
You would think this would fall under the cook's or gardener's job description.ReplyDelete
I love fresh basil, but I have a brown thumb.
Hey Justin, nice to hear from you. I could ask the gardeners to take care of the basil (I also planted garlic chives, by the way), but this is my own little pet project around here, and it's kind of fun helping stuff grow. Hope you're having a nice spring.Delete
Hello friend! Long, long, long time!!!ReplyDelete
I use only fresh basil on my tomatoes when I make my tomato soup from scratch. It is quite a lot of work, and not at all healthy (although it can be modified) but life is too short and the recipe too complicated and long to make it completely low-fat.
Glad to see you!
Nice to hear from you, WooPak. I'm sure your made-from-scratch soup is terrific -- nutritionists be damned. Hope all is well down on the farm. AndrewDelete
Life on the farm is the circle of life, up close and personal - aka par for the course around here. Something found its way into my duck yard and killed Peking. Yes. I named a duck Peking. In truth he was a muskovy, but I had him for over 7 years and he was a dear pet, drat it! It's all in your perspective however, as a friend visiting from Finland found him to be quite intimidating. Not so much a country gril I guess ;-)ReplyDelete
It is what it is. One thing must die for something else to live. How are things in butler-world these days?
That's sad about Peking. But like your Finnish friend, and having been flogged by a chicken in childhood, big over sized birds like muskovies and wild turkies kind of freak me too. You just never know what kind of mood they're in and what they might do.Delete