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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ah, Basil

Genovese basil just beginning to make flowers

Basil is one of my favorite market garden crops. This year we put in 250' linear feet which I can harvest 10 pounds at a time twice a week in high season. Harvesting 10 pounds is not as fun as it sounds.

Basil is one of our best selling crops. We sell it two ways, a small bag with approx an ounce of basil in each bag and the big bag with a 1/2 pound of basil for those smart folks who freeze pesto for winter use (something I need to do, I have a half pound of frozen pesto/garlic/oil (not really pesto but close) and I know from experience that is not enough to get us through winter/spring.

This year I grew two kinds-Genovese (regular basil) and Reuben, a beautiful red basil with no flavor. Fortunately, I grew very little Reuben compared to the wonderful green basil. Last year we discovered basil does well planted early in a hoophouse. We had a bunch of cucumbers damp off (die) so there was about 25' feet of space in one of the hoophouses so I started basil seedlings and got them transplanted in late April. By June 2006, we were harvesting. So, this year we repeated the basil experiment only this time it was planned and the basil got a whole 50' of space and was put in a bit earlier. It did not do quite as well as the unplanned early basil. Early on, the early stuff threatened to die outright (and some Reuben did die). It was a bit too cool for the basil. But soon enough it got warm enough and the daylight hours long enough and the early basil flourished. I just stopped harvesting it, because it has gotten pretty seedy. The main crop basil we planted outside of a hoophouse has flourished this summer. Though it too really wants to make flower tops, have sex and got to seed. That just means I have to cut it more often to keep the flower stalks at bay.

Now I am at the end of the basil season, plants want to make flowers/seeds and the temps at night are a bit cool for the uncovered basil. If I am lucky, I will get another 3 to 4 weeks of harvest before the plants are spent. Than I will pull them up and hang them in the barn to dry so I have dried basil all winter and spring to use and sell (there are some things that I feel dried basil is better than fresh, home made salad dressings and spaghetti sauce come to mind) before the fresh stuff next year is ready to cut.

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