scent & flavor

Fresh basil. It's not a stretch to say perfume rises off this herb, especially as a hot day bends toward dusk. Brush your hand over the leaves and the air fills with a unique, spicy-floral scent.

This spring I planted a big bed of basil. I bought several packets of seeds and sowed them heavily in this bed, then thinned the plants out as they sprouted. Now they're maturing nicely and I continue to thin, pulling out a dozen plants at a time, which yields enough to make a decent batch of pesto. Once the stand is effectively thinned, I'll start pinching the tops, harvesting the tender top leaves and once again gathering enough for cooking on a daily basis. This is will cause the plants to bush out and sprout an abundance of fresh leaves.

When summer has played out and the plants are bushy—but before they go to seed—I'll pull them all and make up a large batch of pesto. I stop short of adding the grated parmesan and then I freeze the mixture in small portions. Throughout fall, winter, and spring, I'll be able to pull out this preserved bouquet of summer goodness, stir in the fresh-grated cheese, and serve it with pasta, on bagels, or as a pizza topping.

Basil is truly easy to grow and the flavor is remarkable. Especially in January while the snow swirls outside.