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Mountain Gardening: Tips for Growing Basil

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Basil is an essential ingredient in every cook’s garden. Lowe's gardening expert Jodi Torpey provides tips for how to sow, grow and use this versatile herb.

Basil in a container garden.
Lime basil grown from seed.

If I could grow only one herb in my kitchen garden, it would be basil. This versatile edible grows well in the herb garden or containers, comes in many different flavors and can be used in countless recipes. Here's how to enjoy my favorite cooking companion.

Basil is easy to grow, whether planted in a vegetable bed or container garden. One small transplant fits nicely in a large container and inspires many summer meals. As an added bonus, place the container near the back door, and the plant helps repel mosquitoes and houseflies.

Basil is simple to grow from seed. Just sprinkle the seeds on top of soil, cover with a thin layer of soil and keep moist. Before you know it, you'll be harvesting lime basil to create tangy recipes such as lime-basil chicken, flavored vodkas and sorbet.

Fresh basil leaves add a delicious touch when torn into salads, filled with goat cheese and rolled into appetizers, or dried and sprinkled into sauces. A traditional use for basil is blended into fresh pesto. Pesto also freezes well, so consider doubling this recipe and saving a batch for another summer meal.

Basil is a key ingredient in pesto.

Basil Pesto
Makes enough for 1 pound pasta

3 ounces Parmesan cheese
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
3 ounces Parmesan cheese
¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup olive oil

In a food processor bowl grate Parmesan cheese; set aside. In another food processor bowl place garlic and chop finely. Add basil leaves, reserved cheese, nuts and salt. Pulse the mixture until well blended. While the food processor is running, add olive oil; mix until smooth.

Serve with pasta, garden-fresh salad and warm, crusty bread.

What's the one herb you have to have in your cook's garden?