Blooming Basil

Normally I love to see plants bloom in my garden but not basil.  A friend/former restaurant owner told me when basil blooms the leaves tend to taste bitter.  Flowers also stifle growth.  Since the plant is blooming and producing seeds, it thinks the work is over and experiences a shut-down of sorts.  If you want the basil to keep producing new leaves, then take no mercy when pinching - off with their pretty little heads!   

It’s become sort of a thing that every time I write about an herb I pull out my outdated but highly enjoyable 1987 copy of Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs.  Although it’s full of useful information, I reference it purely for the bizarre.  Here’s an exemplary tidbit about the history of basil courtesy of Rodale’s:

Basil hasn’t always been associated with romance and fine dining.  In fact, there was a time when people feared this herb.  According to an anecdote attributed to Tournefort, a seventeenth-century botanist, ‘A certain Gentleman of Siena being wonderfully taken and delighted with the Smell of Basil, was wont very frequently to take the Powder of the dry Herb, and snuff it up his Nose; but in a short Time he turn’d mad and died; and his Head being opened by Surgeons, there was found a Nest of Scorpions in his Brain.’ In keeping with this view of the herb, some believe its name was derived from that of the legendary basilisk, a reptile who could kill with a glance or a breath.

Spoooooky…had I known, basil would’ve definitely made it onto my Halloween pizza.

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