Basil is the Star of WGC Presentation April 18

If the rain put a damper on your early-April urge to get out and plant your spring garden, you’re not alone. But take heart: technically it’s still too early to plant your spring garden anyway. Frost season isn’t over in Windsor until mid-April. Local gardeners usually say April 15 – taxes due and frost season over on the same day. Thanks to a calendar quirk, tax day 2017 is April 18 – so maybe there are three extra days of frost watch this year too. Either way, there’s still plenty of time to plant for spring and summer veggies – or psych yourself into trying to plant a vegetable garden again if you haven’t had much luck before. If pesto and fresh Caprese salad sound good, come learn everything you wanted to know about basil in a free presentation by Tom Gulya. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday April 18 in the community room at the Windsor Senior Center, 9231 Foxwood Drive. Gulya and his wife moved here three years ago after he retired from the University of North Dakota, where he was a professor of plant pathology specializing in sunflowers and sunflower research. While he doesn’t have an academic background in basil, he’s researched it and grows 19 varieties in his Larkfield garden. “I’m a pesto addict,” he explains. As part of his presentation, he’ll bring potted examples of each variety. Basil is grown worldwide and used in cooking from southern Europe through Southeast Asia. It’s also grown as a commercial crop and processed for its oils. Different varieties contain slightly different oils, which give each variety a unique flavor – from licorice to anise to chocolate. “There’s supposed to be one that tastes like bubblegum,” he added. Don’t make pesto with that one, he advises. Pesto, the popular Italian pasta dish, is usually made with sweet Genovese basil, olive oil and pine nuts. Gulya will share his favorite recipe. His tips: always lightly toast the pine nuts. You can swap in toasted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or any other nut to vary the flavor of pesto. Caprese salad, another Italian favorite, is sliced tomatos, sliced fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil, salt and olive oil. Both dishes are easy to make with basil and tomatoes grown in your own garden. But don’t rush out to plant them yet. “I don’t plant mine until mid-May. It’s still too cold before then. If you set your plants out now, they’re just going to sit there in shiver.” Instead, put seedlings indoors on a windowsill or in a greenhouse and plant outside in May, he advises.

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