Wednesday, December 12, 2007

African Blue Basil

The bees dart about the herb walk. No doubt they were drawn there by the African Blue Basil that thrives in the borders, for they dance around tall herb wands.

My first African Blue Basil came home in a 4 inch pot from the nursery section of a little hardware store in a quaint town named Solvang. If you’ve never been to Solvang, just imagine a children’s book vision Copenhagen. Brown half-timbers accenting white building front anchored with brick. Windmills turning on bell shaped building fronts. Shop windows full of blue and white pottery and painted wooden shoes. Colorful blooms cascade over the sides of window boxes and add color to curb side plantings. The smell of apples and sugar and cinnamon cooking beckon you in though the bakery doors.

That trip was seven years ago. The plants I have now are children of that original souvenir. Basil is tender to cooler temperatures, so it is usually treated as an annual. But so far, I’ve managed to keep a small collection growing from the original plant because it roots so easily. On a day like today, when it is crisp, but before any danger of frost, I wander out to the garden with the clippers and return with a bouquet that dwarfs the countertop.

For the next few weeks, the bouquet will get more compact as kitchen shears are run through, shortening the ends. From the outermost leaves and best flowers will be diced a pungent and purple confetti. This will be generously sprinkled over the top of filled omelets and dinner salads.

There is a spot just outside the garage where the rooted cuttings will get plopped into pots while we wait for winter to be over. The heat reflected off the walkway and from the drier vents keeps plants on the potting bench there warm. The walls of the home keep back cruel winds but allow the sunshine in.

The infant basil plants won’t change much above ground. But below where we can see, the roots will grow. When the soil is warm, the pots will be carried out in to the garden. Some will go back into the herb walk. But some will go at the feet of newly planted fruit trees, where the arms of the African Blue Basil, which at their peak will reach out three to four feet, can wave in the bees.

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