Bountiful Basil

Waist-high Basil Bushes

Waist-high Basil Bushes

Basil is a mainstay in our household. It works as a bit of flavouring in many dishes, raw or cooked, and can even be the key ingredient to dishes like bruchetta or pesto. I always sow a lot of basil seeds in spring and then stand back to watch the plants go like mad (or for that 20% of failures, die early and silently). This year I ended up with basil in several beds, all healthy bushes that come at least to my waist.

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As autumn settles in, I’m beginning to fret about the long winter without fresh basil. A couple of years ago I discovered that I could freeze blended basil so this year, before leaves start to drop, I’m starting to harvest basil. I made a slight modification to the process – I added olive oil along with the lemon – to hopefully reduce the amount the frozen cubes dry out. I also put a larger batch into a small plastic container. The small cubes are great for seasoning but the bigger batch should be perfect as a base for pesto.

I’ve done 2 plants and have several more (maybe 10?) to go.

Basil is such a fantastic plant, not only is it great eating, it’s also beautiful. When I finished removing the leaves from the plants, I ended up with 3 little vases of basil flowers: 1 for each bathroom and 1 for the kitchen. Unfortunately the flowers have no aroma (not like those knock-your-socks-off leaves) but they’re still pretty.

Basil Flowers

Basil Flowers

Of course it’s not just me that loves those flowers, my bees eat them up (literally). They collect nectar (totally ignoring the nearby sunflower):

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Bee in flight, seeking nectar with her proboscis extended

and pollen:

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Honeybee collecting white basil pollen – her pollen baskets are filling up

I couldn’t resist posting this next photo. It’s of an innocent bee going about her business. I laughed when I saw the picture on my computer – it looks to me like she’s trying to wear this flower as a hat. Maybe it’s because it’s Easter that my mind jumped to a bee in a bonnet 🙂 (Happy Easter everybody.)

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Honeybee getting every last drop of nectar out of a basil flower

It’s easy to spot 3 honeybees in a flowering basil plant. Which means I’m depriving my colonies of a good feed when I chop down the basil plants. I’ve decided to wait until the bees are done with their basil bounty before I harvest any more. Well, maybe not “done” but I’ll give them a few more days – maybe even weeks – if they remain so keen on those tiny little basil flowers (why aren’t they attacking my great big, beautiful sunflowers????). As soon as the bees find something tastier, those basil plants are history!

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About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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16 Responses to Bountiful Basil

  1. Emily Heath says:

    Love the bee bonnets. Wish I lived somewhere warm enough to grow basil, the smell when you walk around the garden must be amazing.

    • It really is. Sometimes I brush up against a basil plant and am overwhelmed by the aroma. Ditto when the sun hits it. No wonder the bees flock to it.

      I’ve tried growing basil indoors (in fact I have a struggling plant inside now) but they never do anything like a well as they do outside. I can’t figure out what the big difference is but it means 6 inches high plants versus 4 foot high plants so I feel your pain when you say it’s too cold to grow them where you are.

  2. I love the photo with the basil pollen in the bee’s pollen sacs. I love seeing all the different colours of pollen that they collect. I am not as successful with my basil as you, I think it is the need for heat. I usually only get enough to use but it is good to know it freezes well and I will freeze it if I ever get enough i.e. if I get a really hot summer.

    • I wonder when (if) I’ll get bored watching bees with loads of pollen. The variation in colour and texture always has me imagining the source – sort of like a who-done-it in my own back yard.

  3. Just the thought of fresh basil makes my mouth water. I love it. Our favorite way to eat it is with homemade mozzarella cut into cubes and grape tomatoes. We take a toothpick and put a small piece of basil, then put the tomato on, and then the cheese. Then we eat it in one whole bite. SO good. It’s always a hit at parties as an appetizer too.

  4. Can’t believe your basil grows that tall. We grow ours in a small pot on the window sill, that’s England for you!!

    • To be honest, I’ve never seen basil this tall anywhere besides my backyard. I’m not sure what it is but I obviously have the perfect soil and climate for basil. It’s nice to be perfect for something!

  5. Linda says:

    Love fresh basil! Mine grew so well last year that I’ve been debating on growing a massive pot full and making pesto and having plenty to dry.
    Sounds silly, but I was actually thinking about your blog today …I was out walking the dog and somebody had thrown out a massive square trellis. It reminded me of that blog you wrote about the day where everybody sets out the things they don’t want anymore! I just had to have it to grow some sort of vine plant on!

    • You just can’t have too much basil – it’s impossible.

      People throwing out rubbish that is perfectly usable breaks my heart, but when it can be repurposed, that’s very cool. I’ll be watching for your post about what you’re growing up your trellis.

  6. Basil seems to be the only herb I can actually grow to any degree of a bountiful harvest.
    BTW, I LOVE the bee photos in this post.

    • Thanks. I love playing paparazzi to my bees. They don’t seem to mind unless I stick my camera really close – then they simply move to another flower. Sweet little camera-shy things that they are.

  7. vuchickens says:

    I love basil too. Brilliant idea to freeze dry it! And those potted basil flowers are gorgeous!!! No wonder your bees like them so much.

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