Story: I wander around the community garden peering into my friends’ beds as if I am visiting with them themselves. Rebecca’s onions (ready to pick, when are you coming here, I text her), Bob’s tomatoes (always planted too early, always doing well anyway), Caryn’s lettuces (the last of them, time to harvest before they get bitter, I tap away), Tracy’s turnips (where has she been? I wonder). But it’s the basil that drives me crazy. If you buy it in a pot, there are usually about four stems. Most people plant this as one plant, but these are actually four different plants that each have the potential to deliver great bounty if you give them room to grow. It won’t be long ’til you can make a pizza like this (pictured). But before that, the basil can’t be stifled, silenced. Nor can I, apparently. Nor can I.
Tip: Turn the potted basil upside down and gently shake the pot while holding the basil until the whole dirt ball falls out in your hand. Gently separate the three-to-five basil stems, trying to keep as much soil clinging to each of them as possible. Plant each one separately, about 12 inches apart. Water for a few days until roots get established. Be sure to pinch off flowers when they appear on the top of the plants so that energy is forced back into the plant and you grow bushier, more bountiful plants.
Recipe: Basil Lemonade. Put a handful of basil leaves in about two cups of water. Bring to a boil for a minute and then turn off heat immediately. Let steep and cool. In about ten minutes, squeeze half a lemon into a glass. Add some basil water, sugar or honey to taste, and ice cubes. Add a basil leaf for garnish and extra flavoring. Kick back.
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