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Basil

With many varieties to choose from and countless uses in the kitchen, basil is a favorite. Native to Asia, Africa, Central America and South America, basil, a member of the mint family, has been used for thousands of years by several cultures. Such lengthy cultivation has produced over forty varieties including cinnamon, clove, lemon, and many, many more.

Growing Basil

Though it grows as a perennial in warm, tropical climates, basil thrives as an annual during hot summer days. It can easily be sewn from seed or rooted in water for a few days. Plant seeds after danger of frost has passed or start indoors about four weeks before last frost date. Plant basil in rich, well-drained soil.

Basil definitely requires sun and heat. This plant does best with temperatures in the 80-100 degree range. It needs water, but too much will cause the roots to rot. Pinch off the main stem when it begins to produce side leaves to encourage branching. When flower buds develop, pinch them off right away so they don't draw energy from the rest of the plant.

Use basil fresh in sauces, salads, pesto and more! It can also be frozen or dried for future use.

Insalada Caprese
(serves 2)
2 large, fresh tomatoes, sliced
handful of fresh basil leaves
fresh mozzarella (1 large ball, sliced, or several small balls)
salt and pepper
olive oil

1. Layer tomato slices with basil leaves and sliced mozzarella (if using large moz. ball).

2. Salt and pepper as desired. Drizzle with olive oil.


Bruschetta

10 slices of French or Italian bread
olive oil
2 fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn or chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan (optional)

1. Toast bread in oven or on the grill. Remove and brush with olive oil.

2. Combine tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt and set in a strainer over the sink for about 15 minutes.

3. Mix tomatoes with basil, oregano, garlic and salt and pepper (to taste.)

4. Spoon tomato mixture on top of toasted bread. Top with parmesan, if desired.

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