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You Could Be Growing Basil Right Now

Okay, but listen.

You don’t need to start from seed. You don’t need to become a farmer dyke overnight. You can absolutely just head to your grocery store and pick up a potted basil. They’re $5 at my Publix. A package of basil doesn’t cost much less than that, and when you use it up, it’s gone forever. And then you have to buy another one. But meanwhile you could have a pot of basil that just keeps on growing. It’ll pay for itself over and over!

Or, you don’t even have to go to a grocery store. You can go to a hardware store and into its garden center, which always smells to me like running errands with my mother. They’ve got lots of potted herbs. But I recommend basil, because it tends to be strong, resilient. You can keep your pot indoors or on your balcony or your fire escape or wherever you like, really. So long as it gets some water and some sunlight, it’ll thrive.

The thing about growing your own basil is that you’re going to consume a lot of basil. You gotta harvest it regularly to promote growth. But of all problems to have, doesn’t this one sound nice? Having just simply too goddamn much basil? The dream!

Think of all the things you could be making with basil. I made Taiwanese popcorn chicken with fried basil, and now I’m like…more things should be topped with fried basil! Just drop some leaves in some bubbling oil and watch them turn into dark shards of fragile green glass in a matter of seconds. Throw those shards on some instant ramen! And then eat it immediately before your basil glass loses its crunch!

Or, skip the frying process and just thinly slice basil into little ribbons to top your instant ramen, your pasta, your bean stew, your fried rice.


And on the topic of frozen things, you can make basil ice cream or lemon basil granita. You can also look at those recipes and suddenly remember that you still haven’t bought the KitchenAid stand mixer ice cream attachment, even though every three to four months you think about buying the KitchenAid stand mixer ice cream attachment.

Do you know how easy it is to make basil simple syrup?! Bring a cup of water to a boil, turn off the heat, and add anywhere between 1/4 cup and a whole cup of sugar (it depends how sweet you like it!), and stir it until the sugar dissolves. Then drop 10-15 basil leaves in there and let it steep for 10-15 minutes. Use it in cocktails or mocktails. Put what you don’t use in an airtight container and pop it in the fridge for next time.

Make a pesto!!!!!!!!!

Make tomato sauce!!!!!!

Make a pan pizza and DON’T put basil on it at first. But then when it’s completely done cooking, throw some fresh basil on top.

A delicious, lovely caprese salad — or caprese tower! — is not just something to be ordered in a restaurant! You can make these at home! You can make crostini and roast a whole head of garlic and then spread a layer of roasted garlic on each crostini and top them with tomato slices, fresh mozzarella slices, and leaves of basil and then drizzle everything with balsamic.

Your home is gonna smell real good.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 858 articles for us.


  1. One of my fav varieties of Basil to grow is red Rubin it’s a great contrast when grown next to a green variety. Also Thai basil is another super addition to your kitchen herb garden.

  2. This article almost makes me believe that I can become a person who successfully grows basil in a pot in her home. It almost makes me believe that I can change. That just because every previous attempt has ended with scrawny, dead basil plants doesn’t mean that it will happen this time.

  3. Fried! I hadn’t thought of that even though fried sage is a delight.

    I am growing 6 different types of basil in my aerogarden and frankly am exhausted, but this is almost enough to make me excited about basil again.

  4. Can’t believe Kayla manages to have extra basil
    I am a botanist and overall decent with houseplants and can get my indoor basil to grow just barely enough to use it in my fancier dinners, so once every week or two

  5. This was literally my childhood; just spending summers with lots of basil, caprese all the time, and boatloads of pesto (which we then froze, for the rest of the year :P). I’m finally starting again now that I have a place of my own (mostly), with 4 baby sprouts going in a tray in my office.

  6. Interesting that you find basil easy to keep, I’m generally good with house plants and I’ve had a lot of success with mint but soft-stemmed herbs like basil and cilantro just wilt on me within a week, every time! Do you have some secret tips for keeping them alive?

    • Glad I’m not the only one. I’m good with a lot of houseplants but really haven’t done well with herbs. I’ve had some success with rosemary but have failed spectacularly with basil.

    • I had this problem a lot! Things that helped my basil plant thrive after killing a bunch of them: (1) rooting a basil cutting and planting it myself. I have read a bunch of places that basil plants sold at grocery stores are overcrowded in their pots and designed to die soon. Rooting a basil cutting is very easy and quick and then you can control the potting mix/amount of room the plant has to grow! (2) as much sun as you can give them + frequent watering. I put my basil outside last summer in direct sun and watered every day and it THRIVED. Now I have it in a window and still water it every few days and it’s pretty happy.

      • This is so helpful! I’m also on the “I always kill basil” side of the spectrum, and I’m definitely going to try this to see if I can get to the “blessed and highly favored with basil” side of the spectrum. Thanks!

  7. I LOVE growing and propogating basil! For commercially grown potted basil, I recommend watering it every 2 days, and keeping it in lots of light, but not too much (if any) direct sunlight.
    I even managed to get some loose basil leaves from the supermarket to sprout roots in a glass of water this year! Felt like a frikkin farmer, lol.

  8. I have a dear little basil plant that a client gave me six months ago. I am very shocked and proud that I have been able to keep it alive this long. I haven’t wanted to cut it though but now I think I will start adding basil to my cooking.

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