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Culinary Landscaping 1: Rosemary and Basil

Posted on 15 March 2011

Culinary Landscaping 1:  Rosemary and Basil

Anna Bellamie, Denver Landscaping Network                                          3/13/11

With spring just around the corner, outdoor cooking season isn’t far off.  One way to add depth not only to your home garden but also your plate is to incorporate hearty and versatile herbs to your culinary landscape.

One very popular and easy to maintain bush is Rosemary (rosemarinus oficianalis), a woodsy, perennial herb native to the Mediterranean but easily grown just about anywhere, even in arid Colorado.  Quick-growing, an established rosemary bush can reach up to 5 feet tall, making it an easy choice for an edge shrub.  The sweet and complex aroma carries, and the bushes themselves are pest-resistant, making this plant a great choice near your outdoor cooking area.  Rosemary can also be used as topiary, as it is easily pruned and shaped.  While some bushed will remain green, you may also see varieties with beautiful small flowers ranging from white to purpe.  Use cut branches as floral decoration around the home, dry the leaves for later use, or use for cooking.  Large enough branches, soaked in water first to prevent burning, are a fun and different skewer to use on the barbeque, in place of a plain old wooden one.  Their flavor will infuse through vegetables or meat as they cook on the grill, not to mention impress your guests!

Another easy addition to a cook’s garden is basil.  Given it’s propensity to take over an area quickly, though, you may consider keeping it in a large pot, unless you’ve lots of room to spare, as it can spread rapidly.  Most varieties of Basil (ocimum basilicum), culinary superstar of Italian and Asian cuisines, act as an annual and do not do well in cold conditions, making it the perfect summer herb, thriving in heat and strong sunlight.  Basil can be subject to a couple of different kinds of mold, but in general, this plant is a no-fuss and very inexpensive addition to your culinary landscape.  For a perfect spring meal straight from your garden or patio, toss fresh basil leaves with tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil and serve with pasta or something from the grill.  Sweet basil is also wonderful in cocktails or adding an interesting take on classic lemonade.  If you find you have more basil than you know what to do with, once it’s taken off mid-summer, pesto is a great gift and freezes well, making your basil essentially last well into winter.

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