Growing basil in the winter: A beginner's journey
Follow me as I try to grow basil indoors this winter. Also, learn how to make pesto with your freshly grown basil.
To my fellow foodies out there, I bet you’d love to have fresh herbs to cook with during the winter. The good news is that it is possible to grow your own herbs indoors, even in the winter. The bad news is is that this is my first try at growing anything. I will be publishing my achievements and mistakes, so feel free to join me on my basil-growing endeavour. I will also be posting my favourite recipes that use basil.
If you are not an aspiring gardener like me, you can skip to the pesto recipe below.
Buying a basil plant
You can find potted herbs at most large grocery stores. Once you have carefully picked out which plant to take home, the next step is to name it. I’m just kidding; there’s no need to humanize your basil plant. Nonetheless, I will refer to my basil plant as ‘Billy’ from now on, just to make things easier.
One of the most essential things for your new basil plant is, of course, water. Some say that you only need to water basil once every 3-4 days.
However, I found that Billy’s leaves were starting to wilt and die with this routine. As a result, I had to pick off a lot of the leaves in the first two weeks. Afterwards, I started watering Billy every day and there was a big improvement. Mainly, Billy wasn’t dying anymore.
Along with watering your basil plant every day or every other day, you need to ensure that your plant has sufficient drainage. If the plant’s roots are allowed to sit in water for extended periods of time, the roots will rot and die. People often repot their plants and put gravel or flat rocks at the bottom of the pot.
I opted to cover the bottom of the plant dish with plant filler rocks, and place the pot on top. This seems to be working well so far.
The other essential thing your new basil plant needs is light. I say light and not sunlight, because as we all know, sunlight is a rare during the wet Vancouver winter. Most gardening experts seem to advocate a minimum of 4 hours of light for basil.
I simply put Billy on the kitchen window sill when it is sunny and under fluorescent light when it is cloudy.
Making pesto is a great way to use basil. Supermarket basil plants are often overcrowded, and pesto is a great way to make use of the overabundance of leaves. Most importantly, if you are like me and do not have a green thumb, pesto tastes yummy even if you throw in a few wilted leaves.
3 cups of basil leaves
2 small cloves or 1 large clove of garlic
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to taste
Salt and cracked black pepper
*I often use a combination of basil and parsley to make pesto. Also, my basil plant is not large enough yet to give me 3 cups of leaves.
*If you are going to use this pesto as a spread, I suggest going easy on the garlic, because raw garlic can be too spicy for some.
1) Toast the nuts in a pan or oven
2) Put basil and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped
3) Put toasted nuts in the food processor and pulse until texture is creamy
4) Pour in olive oil bit by bit as the food processor is running
5) Add salt, pepper, and Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste
Enjoy as a pasta sauce or on its own as a spread.