Hey party people! So I spent this past week in New Jersey with family, which means that I spent the week not really cooking and thus not really producing anything for this little corner of the internet. And yesterday it was all I could do to curl up on the couch and lament the crummy weather, so I wasn’t really that productive here in Maryland either. And when I woke up this morning I was all jazzed to make something but then it was cold and rainy and the thought of cooking another in between season vegetable made me hide under the covers.
So I’m using my get out of jail free card for this week. I dug up an old post that Dan was supposed to author started and decided that today, when all I want are huevos rancheros with salsa fresca, I would share how we grow, harvest, and dry basil. In the interest of full disclosure I’ll admit that while we had the same two basil plants (grown from seeds) going strong and producing for over a year, they died this past summer because the only place in our living room that gets direct sunlight is also where the air conditioner is located. We’re really hoping our next place has outdoor living space.
Growing basil, like any other plant, means finding the right combination of light, warmth, and water. Basil needs a good 4-5 hours of direct sunlight and temperatures of 60 and up. To begin from seeds, fill your pot with dirt, poke a hole with your finger 2-3 inches deep, and sprinkle seeds inside. Cover with dirt and water, but do not soak. Water a little daily, sparingly. Soon you’ll see sprouts. It’s okay if you have multiples, when they’re 4-5 inches tall you can separate them, leaving 1 per pot.
Your basil plant will grow steadily until the stem is thick and it’s producing large amounts of leaves. The key to getting the plant to continue to produce is to keep it from flowering. This means trimming it once or twice a month, depending on growth, and pinching off any flowers that form. If you’re regularly using the plant for fresh basil, you shouldn’t have to actually cut it back frequently. If you’re using it for fresh basil occasionally and would also like to dry some, simply cut off the amount you would like to dry and hang it upside down, from the stem, in a cool dark place. The leaves shouldn’t get any direct sunlight and should hang until they are fully dried. Then grind, chop, or leave them whole and enjoy!