Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Little In Love With Basil

My Potted Basil ((Ocimum basilicum)
One of my favorite plants in the garden and in pots on my deck, is basil.   Basil is a gorgeous plant, it grows easily and quickly into a bushy, full, tender leaved plant.  This plant is an annual, which must be planted by seed each year.  It has glossy-surfaced leaves and the plant reaches about eighteen inches in height when mature. The plant will bloom tiny white or purple flowers on spikes. However, leaves are the gardners harvest so once you see the flowering spikes, it has given the plant a signal to stop growing.  So, although beautiful when in flower, seeing them tells you that your plant has reached it's full maturity.  

The seeds can be sown directly into the garden after the last frost, in early spring.  Basil likes to be planted in full sun, in well-drained soil, and thrives well using composted manure or other organic materials as a mulch. Basil can be affected by too much water, be sure not to over-water the plants.

When grown in pots by the front door or on a back porch, basil will be a repellent against mosquitoes.   In the garden planted as a companion plant it will be a repellant from mites and aphids. Basil can slow down the growth of milkweed bugs, and this allows it to be a useful fungicide.

Basil is easy to start from cuttings. Use a tall glass or a bottle and fill it with water.  Cut a 4" to 6" piece of basil and remove the lower leaves, leaving about three sets of leaves on the stem.  Put the cutting into the water and in about two weeks there will be nice roots allowing you to plant it in a small pot with quality potting soil.

Whether you plant basil to harvest and eat or for a repellent for insects or even as a annual flower for it's beauty in the garden, you can't go wrong with this plant.  I love how it looks and I love being able to harvest the leaves and make a tasty salad or pesto for pasta.  Basil is a wonderful herb, plant and green that even beginner gardeners can grow and harvest.

I wanted to share a delicious way to use your basil with this recipe:

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 Cup



2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano or Asagio cheese

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts (any nut can be substituted such as cashews or pecans)

3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste



 Combine the basil in with the nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

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