Beloved Basil

By Amy Grant | August 22, 2021
Image by Victor Ward
by Amy Grant
August 22, 2021

Not everyone likes fresh herbs. My mother, for instance, thinks that fresh cilantro tastes like soap and eschews any dish containing the delicate herb. Other people have grown up using salt to flavor their food. Just salt. 

Beyond Cilantro

I’m not any of these people. I love fresh herbs. To that end I have an herb garden. Well it isn’t really a garden, since many of my herbs are sprinkled around the yard interspersed with other perennials. Since most of them are perennials, that works quite well, but I do grow annual herbs as well. 

I’ve tried growing the aforementioned cilantro and all I end up with is the seeds, also known as coriander. While coriander is great, it isn’t what I’m growing the herb for. I want those succulent, delicate leaves and stems. At any rate, I’ve long since abandoned growing my own cilantro. In my area, cilantro can be found reliably and very inexpensively at the grocery store. 

Delicious Basil

What I must have and do grow as an annual herb is basil. I adore basil! During the growing season I regularly add it fresh to salads, on sandwiches, chiffonaded over grilled chicken breast and of course layered between juicy slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella then drizzled with a balsamic glaze. 

At the end of the growing season when the tomatoes are jostling for space on the counter, it’s sauce making time and you guessed it, basil features prominently. 

I’ve grown basil two ways — out in the garden proper and in containers. Growing basil in the garden worked great when I lived in a temperate area of the PNW, but I’m in a much warmer area of that region now so I have to grow my basil under the large leaves of a squash plant or risk crispy leaves. 

Basil in Containers

This year I’m back to container growing. The container is a large terra cotta and I’ve placed it in one of the few areas I have of dappled light. In the morning, the plant gets about four sun-filled hours and thereafter the shade of a crabapple provides welcome dappled light. 

My basil looks beautiful so far, in fact I need to pinch it back and use some leaves in dinner tonight. Hmm, what to make? It’s 96 F (35.5 C) today, so no cooking if at all possible. How about lemon basil chicken salad using some leftover roasted chicken, on croissants with spinach? Or maybe a corn and tomato salad with fresh basil. Or maybe if I can find a cool spot to grill, grilled salmon on ciabatta with basil aioli, tomatoes and peppered bacon”¦

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