Sunday, October 9, 2011

Neighborly basil

For the last two years I've walked past a growing stoop garden of basil, watching as it went from a couple sprouts in Styrofoam cups to an overflowing bounty. For a typical Brooklyn apartment-dweller, there's not a lot of room to grow your own food, and this garden is a jury-rigged affair of mismatched pots on a baker's shelf. It looks like a wall of green.  

I had never known who was responsible for the plants -- the only guy I'd ever seen come and go from that apartment was a college-aged rotund dude who walks to the bodega wearing only flip-flops and long johns, the full-body red flannel kind with a little flap in the back. But today I saw the basil gardener snipping off some of the leaves, said hello, and told him how nice it has been to walk past his plants every day.

"Oh -- yous want some?" he asked in that thick Brooklyn accent I love. Without waiting for my answer, he lopped off several leaves and told me he was going to wait a couple more days, then cut back most of the plants and make a batch of pesto. "It's for tha wife, you know? She loves my pesto."

I took my neighborly basil home and made a little salad with tomatoes and spinach. I wanted that full, sharp basil taste, undiluted by salt and oil, and it was a perfect treat. Homegrown is always the best, even when it's just grown on the stoop. 

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