Purple Basil from Thai seeds. Isn’t it stunning? Almost as gorgeous as Dark Opal Basil that is almost entirely a rich, deep burgundy color… I found myself in Quezon City this morning, delivering a birthday present to an uncle who turned nearly 80 today. He is a fairly well known artist and it’s always interesting to visit his place to see what wacky and outrageously creative things he is currently working on… The uncle is my mom’s younger brother, and is only one of many talented descendants in that family that got seriously creative genes. I find I did NOT inherit enough of the artsy genes, but there are hints of it, maybe in my cooking, I hope. My dad wouldn’t know a Museum if it landed on top of him so the bloodlines got seriously watered down on the creative side, I think… After dropping off the present, I decided to pass by the Manila Seedling Bank and see if there was anything interesting in the flora department… And luckily, they had a plant show in progress, so it made for a nice stroll and browse in the midday sun. I was thrilled to find a vendor with HUNDREDS of little pots of perhaps as many as a dozen different herbs! Of course I couldn’t resist, despite my predeliction for murdering the little bushes of palate awakening leaves, and ended up succumbing to their promo of buying 9 pots and getting the 10th for free. They came out to PHP30 (80 U.S. cents) each.
Besides the purple basil, they had lots of fresh lavender. I think this is one of the first times I have come across lavender here. Better known to many for its flowers, which possess a deep LAVENDER color that also have an incredible fragrance, I didn’t even know the herb could be raised from seed in our tropical weather! I have often seen rows upon rows of flowering lavender in photos taken in the South of France, and I wondered if I could replicate the same scene here… I am not too sure where I am even going to use this herb (I have never cooked or baked with the leaves before!), but one of my herb books suggests it is excellent in a massage oil… Hmmm, I’m thinking chopping it up finely and mixing it with olive oil before I get my next massage and prior to being roasted on the barbecue… heeheehee. Any brilliant ideas for this fresh lavender? :)
A second type of Thai basil that I bought is green and highly pungent. Basil is thought to have originated in India some 4 thousand years ago (according to Tony Hill in the Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs & Spices), and today there are dozens of varieties and differing degrees of sweetness, pungency and size of leaf. These thai basil leaves are excellent in curries, salads, etc. I used to have several bushes of a slightly different Thai Basil (smaller leaves) that we used to use often in a beef and basil dish, but that too died.
Another pleasant discovery were rather small but very healthy looking sage plants! It’s quite difficult to find fresh sage herbs in the groceries, so I was thrilled to find these plants, which, bang for the buck, you get a small sage leaf for every peso you pay… This will be superb in a sage and butter sauce for pasta, possible with chicken and prosciutto, etc.
Finally, I got a couple of pots of Sweet Italian Basil, perfect for garnishing a pasta with tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes with mozzarella. I crushed and smelled one of the leaves at the shop and they were so much more aromatic and uplifting that say a refrigerated leaf at the grocery… I have received hundreds of emails over the years lamenting our lack of fresh herbs or asking where to buy them… well this source is one of the better ones I have found, so if you need a lot of fresh herbs, check them out: Green 2000 Garden Center, Manila Seedling Bank Garden Complex, Quezon Avenue corner EDSA, telefax 632-926-2707.
Here are more herbaceous posts on this blog, in case you are interested:
Fresh Herbs from Zacky’s Farm
Chervil & Thyme
Coriander, Dill, Mint, Italian Parsley, Mint and Basil
Fresh Herbs, Part I (Tarragon, Opal Basil, Basil, Lemon Balm, Mint, Oregano, Chives)