Years ago, back in East Vancouver, I lived next to an Italian guy named Mario. Mario had a beautiful garden, in which he had built a sort of tent thing covered in thick, clear plastic sheeting. In this tent thing, he grew masses of the most wonderful Roma tomatoes and an embarrassment of shiny, healthy basil plants. Mario noticed my interest in gardening, and every year, he’d give me his extra tomato and basil seedlings. Every year, I would plant and nurture these seedlings, and every year, they would grow into sad, leggy plants. The tomatoes would get blossom end rot, and the basil would produce maybe ten usable leaves, and I would look over the fence at Mario’s tented jungle and feel that somehow I had let him down. Every fall, he would come over with a couple of grocery bags of tomatoes and a large bunch of basil and say, “It’s okay. They’ll be better next year.” They never were.
My first summer in Birmingham, I covered the deck in pots of herbs: everything that I’d had success with in the past (mint, chives, parsley, thyme) and a couple of basil plants, just for old time’s sake. The mint got some kind of infestation. The parsley bolted as soon as the summer hit (some time in May). The thyme did pretty well the first summer, but refused to come back. My mother-in-law’s cats kept eating the chives and then puking them up on the carpet. The basil, though. Oh, the basil: big, bushy plants with shiny green leaves, growing faster than we could eat it. After two summers of failure with my old stand-bys (I mean, how the hell can you kill mint? I ask you.), I took the hint and planted only basil. Pots and pots of basil. Today, I cut all the plants back to make this pesto, and this is what I got:
Mario would be proud.