I once extended a hand in greeting when making an acquaintance, only to be rebuked by the suspect non sequitur, “Sorry, I have pickle juice on my hand.” Well, it turns out it wasn’t a case of closeted O.C.D., it was just that the gent in question was serious about his dill. He actually made his own pickles, and, indeed, had pickle juice on his hands!
And while I plant dill for use in salads, dips and, of course, to season salmon, I don’t quite share his level of affection for the herb. Basil, however, is another story. It is far and away my favorite herb.
I love fresh basil! I use it for so many cooking purposes. For my pesto (which is a key ingredient in a host of recipes), in marinara sauce, layered over prosciutto on pizza, under the skin of roasted chicken, to spice up sandwiches and paninis, in salads (can you say caprese?) and in a number of pasta dishes. Even the flowers it produces can be folded in for a gorgeous presentation. Adding fresh herbs is the finishing touch that gives meals extra flavor and pizazz. Dried herbs just don’t compare.
But, to touch on economics again, if you want to use fresh herbs lavishly you’d spend quite a penny buying them by the pack at the grocery store. But, it’s simple enough to set a big ol’ pot of your herb of choice on a sunny patio, deck, porch or balcony to supply your dishes all summer. I plant two pots of basil — one that’s perfect for pesto and sauces and one for veggies and salads. Sometimes I also throw in a pot of the eye-catching purple variety to use in vinegars and as garnish.
Growing herbs is easy, and if you invest in a few packets of seeds or small plants from the home improvement store you can keep a healthy, nutritious crop going into the Chicago fall. First, spend a little time deciding which herbs are your favorites and think of some of the ways you’ll incorporate them into your cooking (leave a comment if you like). We’ll meet back here in a future post to discuss those herbs individually and interesting ways to plant them.