Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shady Friends

Mid-May is just about my favorite time of year.  Spring is in full force and it’s the perfect time (for most of the country!) to put plants in the ground.  For me,there is no food tastier than one I’ve nurtured into bearing fruit.  I won’t lie though; vegetable gardens can be labor intensive, picky, and yet oh-so satisfying! Can you hear the wistful tone coming through?  For the past two years I’ve lived with a yard that is enveloped in shade.  So much shade!  Great for those South Carolina summers, but not so much for gardening.  After coming to terms with the fact that I would not have a veggie garden (yes, even after strategically moving potted tomatoes around the yard to follow the sun), I decided to keep it simple and stick to herbs.  I’ve grown herbs for kitchen and medicinal uses for years, so why not embrace my old friends whole-heartedly?

No matter how blessed you are with solar luminosity, space, fertile soil, green thumbs, etc; herbs will do well in most conditions.  I recommend putting them in pots if you have limited space and sun, or if you are worried about frost.  I’ll be posting a few of my all time favorites this week, along with some tasty recipes, and other interesting tidbits.  To start it off :::drum roll please::: is Basil!

Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Basils belong to Lamiaceae, the mint family, and have square stems, white two-lipped flowers and abundant fragrance-bearing oil glands typical of many members of the mint family (HerbSociety of America, 2010).
Growing Tips:
Plant in full sun in moist, well-drained soil.
Start seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost date or seed directly in the garden (about 1/4 inch deep) after the last frost date when soil is warm. Set transplants or thin seedlings to stand at least 10 to 12 inches apart; more room (16 to 24 inches apart) will encourage low, bushy plants to develop (NGA, 2010).

Parts Used: Leaves

Sweet Basil is good to use as a tea for indigestion, fevers, colds, flu, kidney and bladder troubles, headaches, cramps, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and nervous conditions (Tierra, 1998).  Basil is also a tremendous addition to the kitchen and can be used to make fresh pesto, added to soups, pizza, stir-fries and just about any dish you can think of.

Simple Basil Pesto Recipe
•    2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
•    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
•    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
•    1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
•    3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
•    Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste                              

1. Combine basil, nuts, and garlic in a food processor
2. Slowly add olive oil as you process the ingredients
3. Add cheese, salt, and pepper
4. Enjoy! 

Happy Eating!
Kristin Henningsen, M.S., R.Y.T.

Herb Society of (2010) Herb Society of America Fact Sheet. Retrieved May 31, 2010 from
National Gardening (2010) Retrieved May 31, 2010 from

Tierra, M. (1998).  The Way of Herbs. New York, NY: Pocket Books.


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Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
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