Beautiful Basil

Basil is one of the best culinary herbs with a distinctive scent and flavor. Fresh basil leaves have a flavor like that of anise, while the dried leaves taste more like curry. Young leaves have the best flavor and should be added at the last moment during cooking.

There are 64 basil species. Most are grown as annuals, because basil is considered a semi-tropical plant and cannot tolerate frost or freezing temperatures. Do not plant seeds directly in the garden until the soil is warm. After May 5th is usually a safe time for planting. You can buy small plants from a garden center and get a head start on cultivation, or start your own plants from seed in small pots filled with seed starter mix.

Once the plants are growing and producing leaves, water them regularly and pinch out the flower buds to promote bushy growth and to prolong the production of dark, green leaves. Basil grows best in rich garden soil, full sun, and temperatures above 80 degrees.

Here’s a delicious way to preserve fresh basil leaves:

In a quart jar, layer the leaves and sprinkle each layer with a pinch of sea salt or coarse kosher salt. Once the jar is almost full of leaves, top it off with a good quality extra virgin olive oil. Seal the jar and store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Allow several days for the oil to become infused with the flavor of the basil. Use the oil for salads, marinades, or use the basil leaves and oil for making pesto.

~ Meadow Walker

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