An Uncontrollable Love of Basil

posted in: gardening | 2


“Basil: A Gateway Vegetable”

So, this summer semester I’m in this English 220 class that I had previously tested out of, but that I now have to take to graduate. Sometimes college is like that: you HAVE to take the things you test out of.

I was doing okay with the class until I got my first paper back. It was marked as “so riddled with typos that it was almost unreadable.”

This has begun to mess with my head. I’ve tried to write a post about my love affair with basil – how I discovered it, how I learned to cook with it, how I finally coaxed some into growing in my container garden out in the backyard… but I’m a little gun shy now. Words are hard and unapproachable now. I mean, you know that this website is a joke on how “typos” are “contagious,” right? Typo’d Mary. Like Typhoid Mary, but with grammar and spelling.

Either way.

basil gets along with everything!

Basil. (That image is from a “how to companion garden game” I’ve been working on. Imagine it in color, and cropped a little bit.)

I finally have some growing, and I trimmed it back this weekend and made pesto (one of the things that I tend to crave every so often, the way others crave chocolate). I know that food comes from gardens, but there is a difference between really knowing something – intellectually and through books, and actually going outside with a pair of scissors and cutting bits of plant off, and then taking those bits inside, washing them down, and cooking with them. There’s a new kind of emotional knowledge that happens. It’s amazing, and mind-blowing, and in a way, incredibly empowering.

I never grew up gardening. I don’t know if that’s something that people who grow up doing this sort of thing from their early childhood learn, but it’s amazing to me. I think that urban gardening and community gardening may be one of the most incredible things we could ever share with each other. It teaches a sense of “connectedness” that I think is hard to get anywhere else.*

I garden because it’s something I feel I “should have done” or something that I “should do.” I don’t garden easily. It’s not second nature, and it’s a struggle for me to keep things alive. The only thing I’ve ever really had success with are the damn tomatoes, and I absolutely hate the way tomatoes taste.**

I don’t normally even really know what to try to grow. Salads are not dishes that I look forward to, and when you have limited understanding of what vegetables are, or are capable of, it becomes difficult to imagine what else, besides salads, that you can do with them.

There is so much to learn, not just about gardening, but about why a person might garden. *** I think that my next step will be to look at (easy) dishes, and see where it is that those ingredients come from, and see if there’s anyway I can make those ingredients.**** It’s a heady feeling to know you have this whole world to look forward to, and to explore.

Or, you know, you will when you find time for it.


* I know this sounds dumb: sustainability is a concept that is saturating our culture now, and that’s fantastic, but to actually see it, and put it in your mouth and be sustained by it, is an incredible experience. Mind you, I only grew the basil. The nuts, cheese, oil, and pasta were all store bought. Still, it’s a start!

** I’ve tried. I still try. One of the only ways I can eat the damn things is if they’re turned into sauce, or are finely chopped and mixed with other things (as in salsa), or are served with lots of mozzarella and basil. See? It comes back to the basil! Topical!

*** Technically, there’s so much to learn about everything.

**** Within reason. I’m not allowed any farm animals. My husband has been very clear about that, and considering how much I struggle to keep plants alive, I’m not sure I can be trusted with animals other than dogs or cats.

2 Responses

  1. We have had the same experience with “testing out of” a class, I see.
    I had the same “gun shy” experience last semester. Allow me to give you my perspective on this issue in this fine blank space of white you’ve provided. I have no concept of myself as a writer, so it’s easier, not easy, but easier to be told what I already know…Margaret Atwood, I ain’t. That said, I wonder what will happen in a drawing or painting class when the constructive criticism hits a nerve. (Not that I’m Margaret Atwood there either…) Actually, I don’t have to wonder. The thing is, I REALLY want to get better at these things. I just try to assume that what I’m being told is a genuine effort to help me in my stated goal. I think teachers that make us confront the things we need to work on help us more than those who fear hurting our feelings.
    As for the garden, bravo! It really is an amazing feeling.
    Cool blog!

    • Well, I’ve been in some situations where the critique was almost unintelligible. Constructive criticism is great, but random-assed criticisms are… random. And not helpful at all.

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