by Amanda Rose Newton
With St. Patrick’s Day making its entrance this week, we would be remiss not to feature a green-hued mocktail to get you into the spirt. Known for its heavy alcohol-based drinks (think Guinness beer and creamy Irish coffees), it is not exactly known for lightweight offerings.
Since we officially sprung forward this week as well, we can reach a happy medium here by offering a light, garden party-appropriate beverage that still is reflective of the greenest holiday of the year. The drink of choice this week features basil and lime, two garden classics that one is never short on once they are established.
You are welcome in advance for having another option for using up that basil that just won’t quit! When kissed with a little fresh lime and whirled with ice in the blender, it adds a visually stunning bright flair to a light and tasty beverage that’s sure to make everyone green with envy.
Aside from being prolific, basil comes in a flavor for everyone. From purple to Thai, they all have their distinct attributes that make them ideal to pair with a variety of sweet or savory foods. Here are a few of our favorite basil varieties:
Dark Opal: Not only does this offer great flavor, but the color is just gorgeous! The foliage really takes your garden beds up a notch and plays off light blooms well. Like any basil, it makes a mean pesto and is right at home in any pasta dish.
Holy Basil: Gaining popularity in recent years, the leaves can be used to make tea known for boosting the immune system. The mottled green and purple leaves also make it a visual focal point in the garden bed.
Lemon Basil: A perfect match for a fresh salad or a cup of iced tea. The lime colored-foliage and long white flowers make it a nice change of pace from your standard basil.
Sweet Basil: This is the old standby for Italian dishes ranging from soups and sauces to the ever so famous Margherita pizza. To keep the best flavor going, harvest the top four leaves often.
Thai Basil: Distinctive, spicy, and reminiscent of licorice, this herb is a must in any stir-fry. It is also quite fragrant, making it a nice choice to have in a high traffic area in the yard.
Growing Basil in Florida
Basil does best in raised garden beds and containers but can be planted in-ground as well. Just be sure you plant it in an area that will be getting adequate water, as they enjoy staying moist. Space roughly 12 inches apart in slightly acidic, well-drained soil. A lover of compost, feel free to add in your own or use our Rockledge Gardens Raised Bed Soil, which features a healthy mix of nutrients needed to get your herbs going strong. Basil does best in 6 hours of sun at least, especially given its desire to stay moist in a state which loves fungi and bugs. If you do end up with the occasional fungus, use an organic method such as Garden Friendly Fungicide, which is safe for humans, pets, and the environment. Also be sure the area is well-draining to avoid root rots and mildews.
In a Pinch
Basil really needs to be pinched, and not just not for St. Patrick’s Day! By pinching off the topmost branches, you will promote more side shoots which will create a fuller, healthier plant. Start when the plant is about 6 inches tall and keep doing so as it grows. Pinching off blooms also helps keep the leaf production going, although the bees certainly will forgive you if you forget occasionally! Once the basil reaches mature size, about 8 inches tall, feel free to harvest regularly.
Lucky Lime Basil Freeze
This lovely drink can be enjoyed all spring long and is a great one to get the kids involved with. Just tell them it’s monster guts!
4 basil leaves
Juice of 1 large lime or 2 key limes (recommended)
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs water
1 cup Ice
1. Tear up basil leaves a little to release oils
2. Toss everything in the blender
3. Blend until consistency of your choosing
4. Add more sugar if needed!
Want to make this an alcoholic drink? While conducting important “research” for this blog, I found the best additions in order are:
2. Whisky (surprise)
Speaking of whisky, for those of you pining for a virgin version featuring the Irish favorite, tune in next week when we makeover a classic.