Sunday, March 01, 2015

yo, Charles!

Charles will be happy to see this:

So I did as Charles recommended and went to the local flower shop, which sold a wide variety of plants, including basil. I asked the lady for bajil, per the Korean pronunciation (which vaguely mimics the French, although in French it's actually basilic); she didn't know what I was talking about, but another, unseen woman in the back of the store overheard my request and shouted to the first woman that "The basil's up front!" The first woman led me over to the shelves that held several rows of plants. The basil was sitting there in its little plastic pot, minding its own business.

"How much?" I asked.

"2,000 won," the lady said.

"I'll take two, please," I said.

And that's how I wound up with my new children. Before I left the shop, I asked the lady whether the care instructions were printed on those plastic tags that had been thrust into the soil. "Yes," she said, and that was that. I made the ten-minute walk in the evening cold, fired up my electric heater when I got inside my studio, and read the Korean instructions with the help of an online dictionary. The instructions boiled down to: plenty of sunlight, and re-water when the top of the soil is dry. However, a look online told me that my new children are likely to come to a bad end:

Unless you are moving and growing the herb in a greenhouse, the hot temperatures and direct sunlight that basil thrives in are not usually found in the average person’s home, so be sure to provide as much light as possible; artificial lighting for 10-12 hours a day during the darker winter months. Even so, the plant may linger for a time, but it will succumb at some point. With this knowledge, it is best to be prepared to either purchase another plant or start your own from seed in the spring.
[emphasis added]

Alas. I can only hope my plants will grow—fast—before they "succumb." My buddy JW has moved back to Korea and, pushy bastard that he is, he's asked me to come over to his new apartment in Samsung-dong (where the richy-riches live) and cook something Italian for his family on March 14. So—pesto, for sure. Probably fettuccine Kev-fredo, garlic bread, and maybe a caprese or a Mediterranean salad. I already told JW that we'd have to go out for dessert: I've never tried to make tiramisu, and I sure as hell can't hand-make gelato.

Wish me luck. Charles says that caring for basil is easy, but the website says that my basil is doomed to die, despite my best efforts. It's all a question of timing, then: will my basil plants grow luxuriant enough for me to snip off their leaves before the plants themselves give up the ghost? We'll see. As for twelve hours of light... not gonna happen. The kids're gonna have to make do with sitting next to a window covered by blinds.


1 comment:

Charles said...

Congrats, dude! Welcome to the world of home-grown bah-jil!

As for the info you found, that is referring specifically to keeping basil through the winter--it's not like your plants are just going to up and die at some random point in time. But yeah, your plants are not going to last forever. For the record, I don't think I've ever tried to keep basil through the winter. There usually does come a point. And it is true that most apartments are not ideal growing locations.

That being said, though, we've raised many different herbs, and hands down the easiest to grow has been the basil. It's almost impossible to over-water them, and if you are away for a few days and come back to a slightly withered-looking plant, some water is usually enough to get it to perk back up again. Obviously you want as much light as possible, but I think you'll be fine as long as your place isn't too dark (i.e., keep the blinds open during the day).

I can't remember what I've told you already, but here's a tip: Don't let the basil flower. As soon as you see it starting to bud (if you get to that point), cut that top part off. Don't worry about stunting growth--the bottom parts will fill in to make up for it. Anyway, your goal here is not to raise a healthy, free-range plant, but to enslave this sucker and ultimately murder it for its tasty leaves.

(By the way, tiramisu is very easy to make as far as desserts go. Gelato, on the other hand, is another story entirely.)