Gardening with herbs, which is becoming increasingly popular, is indulged in by those who like subtlety in their plants in preference to brilliance.”
– Helen Morgenthau Fox
Ah, basil. I stand amid the waist-high plants and tear off leaves. Stormy winds and chilly nights are coming and I’m not taking any chances. My basil is besiegingly lovely. Beyond Utterance. A bull moose bumper crop of Biblical measure.
Basil was so revered in ancient civilizations that only kings and priests could gather it. My Italian grandmother taught me to tear basil and Never Ever cut it with a knife.
In ancient Rome, basil was called Basilescus, meaning the Basilisk~ a fire-breathing, half-lizard, half-dragon creature with a fatal piercing stare. This creature had the head of a rooster, the body of a serpent, and the wings of a bat. Basil leaves were said to be the only cure for its bite as well as its withering breath, which could kill plants and animals. The Romans ( and my father) believed you needed to rant and swear while sowing the seeds in order to get the most potent plant possible.
There’s good basil and bad basil. Basil was considered a powerful protector, planted around temples and laid with the dead. But, in Sicily, they say that basil dropped between two bricks transforms into a scorpion. (I recently learned that babies have something in common with basil. Listen to the candidates take on the issue of anchor babies. There are good babies and bad babies? Dropped, not born? Sigh.)
I say escape the stormy political hysteria.
Get yourself some basil.
Cheering effect guaranteed.
2 ounces of parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cups packed fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
Place the cheese and the garlic in a food processor and whirr until fine. Add the basil and pine nuts and drizzle in the olive oil slowly until the pesto is thoroughly processed.
Add the pesto, a little pasta water, and a few grinds of black pepper to the serving bowl mixture and toss well.
Pounding fragrant things — particularly garlic, basil, parsley — is a tremendous antidote to depression. But it applies also to juniper berries, coriander seeds and the grilled fruits of the chilli pepper. Pounding these things produces an alteration in one’s being — from sighing with fatigue to inhaling with pleasure. The cheering effects of herbs and alliums cannot be too often reiterated. Virgil’s appetite was probably improved equally by pounding garlic as by eating it.”