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Oh sweet wonderful basil, how I love you so! I love you in salads with tomatoes and mozzarella, and I love you with pasta and on pizza.
At the beginning of summer, I decided I wanted to perfect making basil oil. Not just shoving some basil leaves in with olive oil, but infusing basil leaves into the olive oil.
I asked a good chef friend of mine for a recipe. She told me to boil two quarts of water with two tablespoons of salt (that’s a lot, I’m not sure that’s necessary but she’s the expert), add a bunch of basil leaves, then after a few minutes, remove the basil with tongs, put them into a blender with two cups of olive oil. Blend until it’s a rich brilliant green.
The hard part came next. She wanted me to strain the concoction into a container, then pour that into a container that I could then squeeze over pasta or a salad or whatever. She liked to use plastic condiment containers so she could squeeze the oil over plates for a dramatic effect.
At first, I tried pouring the mix into a jar, then I covered the jar with a coffee filter and wrapped a rubber band around the jar. That worked great until the rubber band broke. Dang.
Further experiments had me using coffee filters and tape, and sieves, anything to keep the oil in a container to filter the basil oil into another container that I could then transfer to a plastic bottle from which I could spray or squeeze it onto food. Cheese cloth was way too porous – coffee filters worked way better.
Every method I tried was time-consuming. Straining takes time.
Everytime I hacked the plant, it responded by growing bigger and bigger. I eventually figured out how to effectively strain the basil bits (lots of coffee filters and tape), and had some delicious pasta meals.
That’s how the basil plant by my back door became so enormous. The more I hacked away at it, the more it doubled and tripled in size.
Then in mid-August, it started flowering and then going to seed.
After seeing it flower so fluently, I decided to collect the inevitable seeds.
I wanted to share with you how I collected those seeds.
Collecting basil seeds is easy, especially when you know what to look for.
My enormous Genovese basil plant is the perfect instructor for how to collect seeds.
See how it’s flowering like crazy?
Each individual flower should produce seeds.
If you look closely, you can see that seed production on my plant is well underway:
See the brown seed “pods”? These can be called carpels, or casings, or pods. I’ll use the word pods, for simplicity’s sake (this is a Plants 101 post).
Here’s another look:
Each of the brown seed pods will contain the magical seeds.
You can see the seeds by breaking one of the pods open, like I did here:
The easiest way to collect the seeds is to run your finger down the spike, into a container like a paper bag or a sieve (so you can separate the seeds from the chaff).
Note, it’s not necessary to break the seeds out of their casings, because that will happen naturally anyway. But it’s nice to do so if you plan on giving the seeds away.
I got four seeds from each individual pod. Um, there are a lot of pods per spike:
There are six pods in each cluster, and 19 clusters on the above spike.
That gives us a total of 456 basil seeds from just one spike.
Yes, nearly 500 seeds from one spike.
And I’ve got, I dunno, a couple hundred spikes?
If there are only 100 spikes, that’s over 45,000 seeds from one plant.
But I have way more than 100 spikes.
Which begs the question, anyone want some basil seeds?
Seriously, help me out here before a basil forest grows in the back yard.
Hopefully this helps you learn how to collect basil seeds on your own. Please let me know if you have any questions.
You still have time to guess in last week’s puzzler, in which I asked if these flowers were real or fake:
You can leave your best guess in the comments section, or on my facebook wall. The deadline is tonight at midnight MST (that’s 2am EST).
I’ll reveal the answer and the winner(s) tomorrow after an all-new Ask the Experts panel.
The Experts return manana, and I’ve asked them to talk about Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, and to share their memories of the deceased who matter to them. I hope to see you back here.
Again, happy harvesting, and happy Halloween!