Things I love Thursday – on Friday: Basil (Ocimum L.), a learning experience.

This is a mini ode to basil. This time of year, I think about basil a lot. I love the way it smells, the flavour, the richness. It helps that it’s everywhere. I picked up a giant bunch of basil at the Dufferin Grove Farmers Market last week, and I’ve been thinking about it since. The scent of basil inspires so many vivid memories. All of them positive.

First of all, here’s some science: the olfactory nerve is located very close to the amygdala (connected to the experience and memory of emotion) and it’s also very close to the hippocampus (associated with memory). So upon smelling basil, it’s no surprise I’m taken back through the history of every delicious thing I’ve eaten with basil in it. I’m also transported back in time to a moment I stood over a field of purple and sweet basil at the Horticulture Field on my university campus. That’s the moment I look back on, where I discovered that fresh produce was really really amazing, and how powerful it can be for an otherwise be a disconnected urbanite, taking part in growing amazing and delicious plants for my own sustenance, and in August/September/October, it was possible.

I stood in a big plot of basil, weeding, and also picking. To the right, a plot of bright orange tomatoes, next to a row of juicy red cherry tomatoes, to the left, another plot of basil – purple this time. In working on our little experimental farm, I also learned that I wasn’t the only one that loved basil – wasps loved basil too. Wasps loved basil a lot, and in that summer, I learned to stop being terrified of buzzing things (the fear of buzzing things is back after lack of exposure.)

Growing up, we had a reasonably big yard (considering we didn’t live in the suburbs) and my mom had a beautiful garden (still does). But it was never “mine,” I never grew anything edible from beginning to end., watching things spring up proudly from the ground, fighting drought and rain, and cold, and then eventually being plucked out of the ground and turned into an ingredient for something wonderful.

Basil is also the perfect plant to have sitting on a windowsill, even if you don’t have enough space for a “real” garden. It keeps growing. Just remember to water it.