Sunday, February 13, 2011
On Growing and Buying Basil
The other day I paid over five dollars for a small jar of dried basil. As a gardener who grows basil every year, it crushed me to do it. But, I have been making soup like crazy this winter and nearly every recipe calls for basil. Even if it doesn't, I add it, anyway. Because, more basil! Everything needs more basil!
Basil has got to be the easiest herb to grow in a home garden. I am notorious for neglecting my garden but while other plants sometimes suffer, the basil flourishes. In my garden it is very disease resistant and will grow where ever I stick it. In past years I have seriously underutilized my basil crop. I chop up a few leaves for pizza or salad and some gets used in the marinara I can but most of it gets sent to work with my husband who gives it to his coworker who gives it to her father who loves to make pesto. I get up early in the morning and traipse out to the garden, sleepy-eyed, still in my pajamas to harvest it. I bring in whatever will fit in my giant old blue plastic strainer, wash it, pick off any leaves with the slightest blemish then label the bag. Organic Basil. Harvested today! I feel proud. I think my husband does, too.
This year I'm growing a lot more basil. And I'm trying some new-to-me varieties. Thai basil for one. A spicy Greek one and some type of red basil. Maybe some others, too. I forget. After being traumatized by buying that dried basil, I went crazy shopping for basil seed vowing never to purchase dried basil, again. I should have plenty to give away this year but I'm also studying up on the best ways to dry and store basil. My good friend tells me I should just wash the leaves and freeze them while they're still fresh. I'll try this too.
If you store your own basil, I'd love to hear how you do it. Do you freeze it fresh? Do you dry it? If so, what's the process for drying it and what do you store it in? And if you have a garden but have never grown basil, please! Grow it this year! Whether you have an in-ground garden or you garden in containers, it will not disappoint you.