Monday, July 9, 2012

"Some like it HOT!"

Do you like the hot weather? Some plants do too!

Dry, hot weather has dominated Southeastern Wisconsin for several weeks, causing gardeners to spend hours each day watering their parched plantings, as they strive to maintain annuals and perennials, shrubs and trees.  Although many plants struggle with our pseudo-tropical weather, some LIKE it hot!   Various herbs handle sunshine and hot temps, as long as they receive adequate moisture.

Watering culinary herbs frequently is recommended to produce succulent, flavorful leaves to enhance your favorite recipes.  Depending upon your soil type, you may need to shower your herbs once daily (or twice daily if they are in terra-cotta pots which allow roots to dry rather quickly).  Your efforts will be rewarded when herbs are abundant and you can harvest for tonight’s dinner, or dry them for use in your own spice blends.

Whenever possible, harvest herbs BEFORE they put forth flowers (some herbs become bitter if they are harvested after seed pods or flowers are present).  Of course, sweet basil in flower or a sprig of oregano with dainty purple blossoms can still be used to garnish an entrĂ©e, but as a flavoring agent, it’s past its prime. 

If you are growing a selection of BASIL in your herb garden, consider making pesto using a combination of various cultivars of basil. (Purple-leaf basil is quite lovely, but don’t combine with green basil leaves or your pesto will be a gruesome gray!)

Basil Pesto   (Add some to cooked linguine or rotini and serve hot; can freeze leftover pesto for future use.  NOTE:  pesto is quite potent-- more is NOT better!)
2 cups basil leaves, washed (can use a few varieties of basil for depth of flavor)
2 – 3 cloves fresh garlic, sliced thin (approx one tablespoon)
1/3 cup  pine nuts (might be labeled as pignoli; can substitute walnuts)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine all ingredients using blender or food processor; add salt to taste. Please store in fridge or freezer until ready to use.
M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture