Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bloomin' Marvelous...Basil, Basil, Basil

Hi, it's Heather from the Beating Hearth here with you today for our series "Bloomin' Marvelous", and nothing screams gardening to me more than herbs.  They add a freshness and brightness to any recipe, and are a vital part of my cooking, especially in the summer.

They are the first green things...besides the weeds, growing in my garden, ushering in the warmth of spring and summer.  The king of herbs for me is basil.  I love how it tastes, I love how it smells and I love how pretty it is with its big oblong leaves.

Let me touch on the secret to successfully growing your own, I have this knowledge because I spent an entire summer a few years ago coddling and nurturing a basil plant, only to have it not flourish.  Are you ready for it...the grand secret to basil producing like mad...abuse it.  Be cruel to it.  Pick on your basil like you don't like it, even though you secretly have a mad crush and think basil's like, the coolest and cutest boy in school....and his name is pronounced Ba-sil ("ba" like hat or cat), not bay, but you can't possibly let him know you like him, so you pretend that you don't.  Side note, if I had a son, I might just have to name him Basil....I like it that much.

So, prune your basil and it will reward you.  Once you get several leaves (about 8), you can prune back to the first set of leaves and it will just grow back like crazy for you.  Don't worry about just plucking the leaves off, go straight for the stem.  Tear it off!  Make sure it's watered thoroughly and the soil's well-draining!  In the summer, make sure it has full sun, water it every day and pick off any flowers that grow because that will ruin your flavor.  Do all this and you should have a glorious basil plant and tasty goodness all summer long.

Now, what to do with your basils?  I like calling them basils (plural), because it makes me smile.  Okay, what to do with your basils?  Well, I was going to make homemade strawberry ice cream infused with basil goodness, but I decided to go on a sugar strike this week.  So, never mind.  Let's do this of the best mid to late summer salads, because you get to use your freshly picked, perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes and bunches of glorious, deep green basil...adjust ingredients to fit the amount you need.

Caprese Salad
Bunches of basil
Glorious, perfectly ripe tomatoes
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (use the fresh stuff, it's so creamy and soft)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Balsamic Vinegar reduction (optional, but my drizzle of choice)
Olive Oil (optional)
Italian Vinaigrette (If you're my mom)

Slice your tomatoes nice and thick.  Slice your mozzarella.  Pluck basils off the stem.  Arrange in layers (see above).
Salt and pepper generously.  Tomatoes crave seasoning.  Nothing tastes better than a tomato warm off the vine with a hearty sprinkling of salt.

If you choose, make a balsamic reduction...Heat 1 cup balsamic vinegar over medium heat until boiling.  Reduce heat to a simmer, stir occasionally, and let reduce by half until thicker and more syrupy.  Let cool.

If you choose, drizzle the reduction, simple olive oil or Italian vinaigrette over the top and serve.

Not only is this salad delicious, but it's stunning to look at.


Thanks for reading!


p.s. We've got our link party coming up on July 29th where we are asking for you to link up all your gardening posts.  It can be about your flowers, vegetables, fruit, recipes using your fresh produce or something that has been inspired by gardens or nature.

Shared here:
Create With Joy
Blackberry Vine
Try a new recipe Tuesday 


  1. This looks so good! I can almost taste the mozzarella in my mouth. Great idea!

  2. Yum heather where were you when I had loads of it last summer! Delish :)

  3. Love the presentation and am a huge fan of Caprese salad !

  4. Yum - My favorite salad!!!! I'll try Mozzarella instead of feta next time. Now I'm craving this....Awesome post girl xxx

  5. Great tips, Heather! Love it! I am going out to prune mine now! Haven't done that since I planted it! Oops! Your salad looks Delicious!

  6. Ba-sil, huh? I have been saying it wrong whole time. Even with your tips, I doubt I could grow my own. I think I've been banned from buying any other basil plants, I've killed them all, quickly and quite well. But, this salad looks delicious. Thank goodness the grocery store carries basil :)

  7. My mouth is watering, Heather! I've been dying to make a caprese salad since Spring. After seeing your recipe, I'm inspired to put it on the menu this the very least for me as a lunch.

  8. Mmm, I love fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. Abused plants, that I can do....

  9. Thanks for the tips about growing basil! We've tried to grow Thai basil in the house as it is an annual here, with no luck. Have to try your method and see what happens. At this point we have nothing to lose.
    I have a similar recipe but it calls for cherry tomatoes and bocconcini, which I always have to buy special. I usually have mozza on hand so I am pinning this one to try! Looks delicious!

  10. Basils are my favorites!!! :) And I love the fresh mozz too...nothing like it!!


  11. Heather, so perfect!! This is one of my family's favorite sides at our parties. Much of my family is Italian (though, not I) and you don't have to be an ounce to love this salad. My husband has an herb garden and though he has fairly good luck, I can't wait to tell him about your "abuse method". Thanks for sharing - delicious!!

  12. I just saw some lovely fresh basil at my farmer's market, but I wasn't sure how to use it. This salad looks so good...It's making me hungry. : )

  13. I have made this salad before and it's absolutely delicious, though I've never made a balsamic reduction. Thanks for the tips !

  14. Delicious! I love this salad too, and nothing says summer like basil! A must have for my herb gardens.
    Debbie :)

  15. Heather...still catching up! This is my favorite salad and I order it out all the time. Now I can make my own...just got some great tomatoes and have everything else! Yummmmm! By the's also my favorite pizza!

  16. That is a plate of my summer favorites. So good! Thanks for the basil growing tips...I plan on planting some next summer and abusing the heck out them! Great share!