How to Propagate Herbs in Water: AKA My Kid’s Next Science Project

We had some accidental science going on in the kitchen windowsill last week.  I cut some basil from the garden for a recipe and ended up with too much.  It was gorgeous, and I didn’t want to waste it, so I put it in a cup in the windowsill with some water figuring I’d use it in the next few days.  One of these cups:

And then I ignored it for at least a week.  I’m honestly not sure  if the fact that the stems were down there in the dark of the red cup was advantageous to the experiment, hence, the science project reference–more on that in a minute.  Last night, I pulled it out wondering how it had not died yet, since I hadn’t even given it additional water, and here is what I found:

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Roots!  It grew real, plant-nourishing roots!  I find this important for home gardeners for several reasons:

  • You can have more of what you already have.  You want three basil plants instead of one?  Go ahead and cut a few, get them to root, and plant them!
  • You can bring plants indoors for the winter without having to dig up dirt from your garden and try to transplant a gigantic plant into a container sized appropriately for indoors.
  • It’s FREE!
  • It’s a fast way to get a plant you already know you like.  Unless, you are out of red cups and have to go to Costco (this might also negate bullet point #3 and make this the most expensive herb you ever bought).
  • It’s EASY!  Make sure your cut is fresh (cut a small part of stem off RIGHT before you put it in the water-this means you’ll likely cut it twice: once outside and once after you bring it in the house to get it in water).  Give it sufficient water, and you’re all set!

A little internet research will divulge that this works with many plants, especially herbs.  So, considering that it’s September and the frost will hit all of us eventually this fall, start thinking about which of your favorite herbs you’d like growing inside this winter.  They’ll be sure to brighten your windowsill and your culinary efforts!

A note on the un-scientific method used here:

I’m planning to convince one of my children to use this as their science fair project this year repeat this little experiment a couple of times changing only one variable per time.  By which I mean that we will pick three or four different herbs from the yard and propagate them all in red cups and then we will make cuttings of those exact same herbs and propagate them in glass jars.  We may also do a third set or a secondary experiment where we add marbles or decorative glass gems because there is some indication in reading about this process that the roots like something down in the bottom of the container to stimulate them.

Here’s the difference a week can make:IMG_0745

The plant on the left was in the red cup for a week and the plant on the right was just cut and placed in water last night.  Happy experimenting!

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Marinated Tomatoes

I’m always happy to eat a tomato adorned with only a little salt.  However, the family is likely to grumble a little if all that shows up on the dinner table are sliced tomatoes and a salt!  Here’s a quick little recipe that dresses them up enough to be served as a meal.  Marinated tomatoes are great over simple grilled chicken or a slice of cheese toast!  Toss in some small fresh mozzarella balls or diced mozzarella for a delicious salad, or serve them over a scrambled or fried egg.  Plus I’ve included a little French trick to make it all look a little fancier!  IMG_0458

Marinated Tomatoes

2 cups sliced and/or cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp delicious olive oil (you really want a flavorful oil here)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
5 large basil leaves, cut chiffonade (read on for instructions!)
1-2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
A drizzle of balsamic vinegar, optional (at our house we add this at the table allowing those who don’t want it to go without)

Combine all ingredients and gently toss.  Allow to marinate while you prepare whatever you’re serving them with.

How-to cut a chiffonade:

First, start with 5 or so leaves of basil:
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Stack them with the largest on the bottom and the smallest on top:
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Roll it up:
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Then using a sharp knife (this one is my favorite for small tasks), slice the roll thinly:
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The perfect way to dress up the dish:
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Beginning with Basil

Welcome to Modern Day Ma!  I’m glad you’re here!  I hope you find what you’re looking for among the recipes, ideas, and gardening tips, or just some good reading material for your day!

Summer’s bounty is upon us, and it seems a terrible time to start a blog, but it’s also the perfect time!  There is produce in every corner of the yard, farmer’s market and refrigerator and it’s either got to be eaten up, preserved, or tossed in the compost bin.  So, let’s get started with pesto!

basil boquet

Basil is my favorite herb.  When I was beheading my plants (hey, they’ve got to be convinced to keep growing) I ended up grabbing this gorgeous handful into a bouquet and then snapping this shot.  As I did so, I thought to myself that it made a perfect little decorative bouquet for someone like me!  The garden is, hands-down, my favorite place to spend time and nothing beats a delightful, fragrant handful of basil!  It can spice up tomato sauces, sandwiches, soups, eggs, salads, pizzas, meats, and even lunchboxes!

Pesto is the best way to preserve that fresh basil flavor for the long winter. I always make pesto in huge batches when I have basil and then freeze it into “hockey pucks” in my silicone muffin pans.  Just fill the muffin cups (even partially full, if you’d like smaller portions), lay them on a tray and freeze.  After the pesto is frozen, simply pop them out into a storage container or zip top bag and store in the freezer until ready to use.  Pest will defrost at room temperature in about 20 minutes.

Pesto

1 cup fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
½ to 1 cup good quality, yummy tasting olive oil (Spectrum or B.R. Cohn are my favorites)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese (or use more Parmesan)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste-about 1 tsp each pepper and Kosher salt
Optional 1/2 – 1 cup toasted nuts (pine nuts, pecans, almonds)

Combine basil, garlic, nuts, cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and roughly chop.  Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream with the motor running.

Don’t add too much oil. When the motor is stopped, the oil shouldn’t puddle. A good way to check is to turn off the food processor, let it sit for a minute and then check it. If there is a little olive oil that is separating out from the mix, then it’s probably enough. If it still seems really thick, add a little more oil.

Be careful not to leave the food processor on for too long, or it will turn your pesto into more of a peanut butter texture. It shouldn’t be that smooth. You should still see small chunks of nuts and/or cheese when it’s all done.

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