Photo Credit: Love to Know
Is it because of its aromatic leaves that smell like anise, or maybe its variety of flavors that make me crave more? Whatever it is this herb has me hooked to its lemony-mint flavor. I still remember the first time I tasted it. That first taste was in my Mom’s now famous mozzarella, tomato and pesto sandwich. Right after that first taste I was immediately intrigued by its flavor.
Basil is known as the king of herbs by many cooking authors. The use of basil can be traced back to the time of Constantine. Its from the Greek word “basilues” which means the “king.” Basil is considered the “king of herbs.” Originally from India, this herb was cultivated 5,000 years ago as a medicinal herb which according to the herbalist John Gerard “can cure a scorpion’s sting”
So what makes this herb special? It has this distinct flavor which is dominantly lemon and mint, but also has a hint of cinnamon and licorice. The combination of these flavors makes me salivate. If I had to pick one herb as a favorite from my Mom’s garden there is no doubt that I would choose basil. Basil is prevalent in Italian cooking. Growing up Italian this is all I’ve known my whole life so it’s no wonder I love basil so much. Il sou delizioso!
Before I moved from home I asked my Mom to teach me how to plant basil. As you know fresh basil is always handy when you are concocting something exotic in the kitchen. My Mom and I started picking several varieties of basil that I wanted. For sweet spicy I chose cinnamon basil and for lemony flavor I chose lemon basil. For home decoration I chose the purple basil which is perfect for its pungent scent and flowers.
So what’s the proper way to grow basil? Most people will just plant it right away without even knowing how to. Without proper knowledge your basil will not survive. My mom mastered the art of herb planting and made sure to fill the pot with equal measures of vermiculite, perlite and peat. We made sure too that there were no air pockets before we dampened the mixture with water; a perfect environment for the seeds to germinate.
We dropped a couple of seeds in our small pot and covered them with soil. Basil is not a big fan of standing water, so planting the seedlings in well-drained soil will keep it growing. We used the plastic wrap to keep them moist and placed the pots where the seeds could get enough sun. For basil to thrive it needs warm air and sun so we planted the seed indoors before the last spring frost date and kept them there. They need about four to six weeks. But if you live in tropical countries planting the basil outdoors is no problem.
After 5 weeks I was so happy to see the first green tendrils peeking through the soil. This is my queue to remove the plastic cover. I lightly watered the sprouts twice every day and transferred the seedling to a bigger container when it was a few inches tall. Once basil has two sets of leaves it’s about time to transfer it. Make sure the seedlings are 6 inches apart. Frequent pinching is encouraged so when I see blossom flowers appearing from the buds I happily pinch them so leaves can come through.
Now I’m excited that I can make my own pesto spread for a variety of delicious sandwiches. Also, I found a great article on “50 Things to Make With Pesto” from the Food Network website. It was a great find and I hope sharing this love of basil with you turns up some new wonderful dishes you will enjoy!