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Easy Cellar Stockpiling Food Guide

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To freeze basil for pesto, wash and dry 2 cups of leaves (a salad spinner works well), and chop them in a small food processor with ]/4 cup olive oil. Scrape the mixture onto plastic wrap, fold it up, and put the resulting patty in the freezer. To use, defrost the patty, and put it in the food processor with all the other ingredients. Just remember that there is already lU cup of olive oil in the patty, so be sure to only use an additional ]Ia cup to make up the l/2 cup called for in the recipe. Stock up during the peak growing season, and use them all year long in the above recipe. Freezing basil in this way does no noticeable harm to the color or flavor, so you can have the taste of an Italian summer all year round.

Basil was introduced to Europe in the 16th century as a culinary and medicinal herb. It made its way to England and America in the mid-17th century. Basil is native to southern Asia, Iran, and the Middle East. It has mild sedative properties and is said to be helpful in easing abdominal pain. In 21st century America and Europe, it is used as the perfect complement to summer tomatoes. Combine tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar in a food processor, spread on crusty bread, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese for a quick, easy summertime delicacy.

Companion Planting

"Companion planting" is the science of locating plants that benefit one another close together. Benefits range from helping one another grow ro warding off pests and diseases. When planting basil with tomatoes and peppers, they will all grow stronger and more flavorful, and the basil will prevent some of insects and diseases associated with tomatoes. A layer of basil leaves over a bowl of tomatoes will repel fruit flies.

Companion planting is also an art. In her offbeat book, The Pesto Manifesto, Lorel Nazzaro describes a companion border for the tomato garden: "Purple basil makes an attractive border when mixed with golden marigolds, also a good companion plant, and cherry red nasturtiums. (This same mix looks beautiful in window boxes.. . I add some lobelia and paint these whimsical boxes cobalt blue.)" Wow.

  • Purple Ruffles' (Ocimum basilicumpurpurescens 'Purple Ruffles') is not only a lovely garden accent in the herb, vegetable, or flower border, but is an interesting color and flavor accent in salads. The name says it all—it is a purple, ruffle-leaved basil. It grows to 2 feet tall and wide. Towards the end of the growing season, let the lavender flowers grow for exciting late-season color combination.
  • Spicy (¡lobe' dwarf basil (O.b. 'Minimum') is a beautiful plant. It grows in adorable little balls perfect for a front-of-the-border accent,

Basil and Beyond

with the added attraction of having small leaves that are the perfect size for adding to her bed butters or vinegars.

Basil also comes in flavors such as cinnamon, licorice, and lemon (O.b. var. citriodorurri). Although cinnamon and licorice basil have a delicious scent, they are an acquired taste for some people. The flavor of lemon basil, on the other hand, is an irresistible mixture of sweet and citrus that complements the lighter foods of summer. Try it in place of parsley when cooking rice or chicken. Or make a light, sweet pesto with lemon basil, olive oil, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese to top summer tomatoes, bread, or pasta. 'Sweet Dani', an All-America Selections winner in 1998, is as pretty as it is tasty.

Regardless of what you call it or what your heritage may be, if you are going to grow one herb this summer, basil is the one to choose. And if you really must grow only one variety of basil, 'Sweet Genovese is the one to choose. But go ahead and splurge—grow a few different kinds and discover the wonders of this beautiful and delicious herb.

Growing and Caring for Gasil

Start basil from seed outdoors after May 15 th (basil needs warm nights), indoors on April 1st. Or choose plants at your local garden center, but keep them sheltered until at least May 15th. Once hot weather sets in, basil plants will grow quickly, but they wont amount to much if they get chilled early in the season. Basil plants will turn black and die at the slightest hint of frost.

Sow seeds or set transplants in a garden bed, container, or windowbox in frail sun and keep well watered throughout the growing season. Pinch off flower buds to save the plant's energy for leaf growth. Also pinch out growing tips to keep the plants bushy.

To harvest basil, cut whole stems just above a pair of lower leaves. The plant will grow new stems from that point. Use only the leaves in fresh or frozen recipes.

To dry basil, hang entire stems upside down out of direct sunlight. Remove the dried leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container. Crush dried leaves into your favorite sauces for a subtle basil flavor.

Now, lets talk about some more plants!

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The Miracle Of Vinegar

The Miracle Of Vinegar

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