Archives for posts with tag: basil

We never had much luck growing seedlings. Wrong equipment, wrong soil, wrong timing, whatever.

For Christmas I bought CRR a 4-foot-long grow light contraption. Our furnace room hasn’t looked the same since.

I figured he would grow some lettuce and maybe some herbs over the winter months. He started out slowly, with various kinds of sprouts. Then boom! Some long-repressed farm gene kicked in, and he went into high-yield mode. Fence row to fence row, in farmer’s parlance.

At this moment, there are 133 seedlings thriving under that grow light, stretched from one end of the workbench to the other. Beef Steak tomatoes, Big Beef tomatoes. Celebrity and Indigo Rose tomatoes. And enough Genovese basil to stock an Italian restaurant. I’m not even counting the dozens of seedlings that are growing in big pots, awaiting transplant.

Now, a rational person might ask: What does a family of two intend to do with 133 seedlings, other than eat ourselves into Caprese salad heaven?

Like a city version of Johnny Appleseed, CRR intends to spread his seedlings far and wide to friends and colleagues. Are you interested?

As the saying goes, you can take the boy off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.Image

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.

I have the perfect recipe for pesto. It came, quite insistently, from my friend Don. We were friends for 29 years: two generations of journalists working for The Associated Press in Washington.

After a chance collaboration when the Soviets shot down a civilian Korean airliner in 1983, Don pretty much adopted me as the newbie in the office. Boy, was I fortunate. I was a wide-eyed 26-year-old and he knew everything about Washington, having covered Congress, politics, investigations and eventually diplomacy.

But forget about work – we became fast friends and bonded over lunches that lasted until last spring. Family, politics, hiking, theater, music, diplomacy, food, travel, more politics, you name it, we talked about it. Gardening was one mutual passion. And it didn’t matter how many basil plants I grew, Don had Better, Bigger, Newer. It became a running joke, was Napolitano basil better than Genovese? I’d throw in Thai basil just to get him rolling on a tantrum. Or there was the year I advocated for baby basil, to his scorn. His passion was epic, no matter the topic.

Since he can no longer reprimand me, I offer up my version of:

Don’s Perfect Pesto


Basil leaves, lightly packed, to fill the container of a small food processor

1 tsp kosher salt

2-3 garlic cloves

(Whirl these 3 ingredients to grind them)

Add 2 Tablespoons of pine nuts, 2-3 Tablespoons of parmesan cheese, and enough olive oil to moisten. Pulse for 5-10 seconds at a time, and add enough olive oil to make a loose paste, then pulse to the consistency you like.  You can freeze at this point and it will keep for many months.

Our ongoing debate: Don added a Tablespoon of butter to his pesto; I insisted it was extraneous.

For this season, Don, I will cede to you.

Editor’s note: Donald M. Rothberg died last week after a brief illness.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.