Basil is funny to grow. It starts as a spindly plant, often with just a few leaves, so few in fact that to take any feels wrong. To snip a couple off for a tomato salad makes me worry that I might kill the plant. In the beginning I always straddle the line between wanting to taste and not wanting to kill. More times than not in early summer I skimp on the basil leaves or I (ahhh!) buy basil.
Then late summer rolls around and my basil plant has turned beast. There are so many leaves that I don’t know where to cut. And then I see them. The seed pods and flowers, inching their way out of the top, getting ready to turn my basil into a bitter compost addition. Not on my time.
Basil, you’re about to get whacked.
The scissors emerge from the kitchen. I grab the entire basil plant and cut it off at the ankles. Brutal to be sure, but necessary because it is at this moment, when the heat of the late summer is overbearing and I am praying for rain as if I live in a desert that I know it is time to make pesto for the winter.