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How to grow basil PLUS Italian mini-lesson #2 -Tasty Tidbits E-zine, Issue #007

March 21, 2010

In this Issue...

  1. To be or not to be? Essere in the Italian Language
  2. Latest site additions
  3. Italy in the news
  4. Growing your own basil - why not?

fresh tomato Salve! It's nice to see you again. It seems that Spring is just around the corner and for many that means getting ready to start flower and vegetable gardens. Of course where I live it's never a shock if we have frost or snow right up through mid-May. That's why in this issue I've included a how-to on growing basil indoors.

Speaking of basil, my all-time favorite basil recipe has to be pesto sauce. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.

Also in this week's issue, Italy in the news, a festive Easter bread recipe and a brand new mini Italian lesson. This time you'll learn the importance of the verb essere. To be or not to be? You'll soon find read on amici miei!

Until next time...

the word arrivederci, stylized

notepad with Italian words

To be or not to be? Essere in the Italian Language

If you've ever taken an Italian class, no doubt your teacher emphasized the importance of the word essere. Just like in English conjugations of "to be" are in just about every sentence we utter.

Where is Bob?

How are you?

I am tired.

It is important when learning the Italian language to really understand this verb and learn how to use it properly. So....

Let's start with pronunciation!

Essere = Eh-sseh-reh

**note: it is important when pronouncing Italian words that end in a vowel (and most of them do) that you leave your mouth open with the vowel sound. In English we tend to *close* our mouths, so be aware of will make you sound more authentic.**

Conjugating this verb is very simple as it is always the same.

  • I am = io sono (ee-oh soh-noh)
  • you are = tu sei (too say-ee)
  • he/she/it is = lui/lei รจ (loo-ee/lay-ee eh)
  • we are = noi siamo (no-ee see-ah-moh)
  • you (all) are = voi siete (voh-ee see-eh-teh)
  • they are = loro sono (loh-roh soh-noh)

    Here are a few sentences that you might find handy:

  • Noi siamo americani (Noh-ee see-ah-moh ah-meh-ree-cah-nee) = We are American.
  • Loro sono al ristorante. (Loh-roh soh-noh ahl ree-stoh-rahn-teh) = They are at the restaurant.
  • Tu sei molto bravo. (Too say-ee mole-toe brah-voh) = You are very smart.

    Those are just a few examples of ways you can use this verb in every day sentences.

    Hope you found this mini-lesson interesting and helpful! Want to learn more? Knowing how to pronounce the vowel sounds in Italian will make any word SO much easier to say. Check out my vowel pronunciation guide for some easy instruction on how to do it right!

    colored easter eggs Latest site additions

    This week I have added a festive and sweet recipe for Italian Easter bread.

    Also new this week, penne arrabbiata and a melon & prosciutto antipasto, a classic and sophisticated Italian specialty.

    Do you have any exciting new recipes you'd like to share? Share them with us!

    We'd love to hear from you!

    Italy In The News

    jail cell Ever wonder about the Italian mob? What happens to those guys when they get old... well, here's what doesn't happen if they get caught:


    (ANSA) - Rome, March 19 - An elderly mobster sentenced to 12 years in jail is too old to do his time...

    And in a sort of governmental "spring cleaning"...


    (ANSA) - Rome, March 19 - The Simplification Ministry has tossed out over 375,000 obsolete...

    potted basil Growing your own basil - why not?

    Basil is one of the main herbs used in Italian cooking. It has a very strong fragrance and can add a whole new dimension of flavor to a dish. When preparing tomato sauce from scratch it is essential that fresh basil be part of the recipe equation. And that's just one (major!) example of why basil is important to Italian cuisine.

    If you're into cooking Italian food, you probably use a lot of basil, too, right? Well, it can be hard to have fresh basil on hand in your kitchen, especially in the winter months when it might be cold outside. And although Spring has arrived to most parts of the US, some of us (read=NORTHEAST) are still hesitant to start our summer gardens since we can have snow up until and through the end of April. However, this doesn't mean we can't have fresh herbs that we grow right within the walls of our house!

    watering can
    What you need to grow basil indoors
  • A large pot (or two smaller pots), with drainage holes
  • Soil
  • Basil Seeds
  • Gravel
  • Watering can
  • Warm location that receives some natural light
  • Instructions for planting and caring for basil

  • Pick a relatively warm and sunny spot where you will keep your basil pot to grow.
  • Prepare a pot by filling the bottom with about a half and inch of gravel. This will allow adequate drainage of extra water, so that you're less likely to overwater your plant.
  • Fill the pot with (moistened) soil, leaving a couple inches of space at the top.
  • Sprinkle in a handful of Basil Seeds
  • Cover with a thin layer of additional soil. Pat down the dirt on top.
  • Move the pot to the sunny location.
  • It should take about a week or so for the plants to start popping up. Once they do, wait until each one has two leaves. Then pull out the tiny ones leaving room for the bigger and stronger plants to grow.

    fresh basil leaves

    Continued care...

  • Water your basil plants about once a week. Make sure to water at the base of the plants, and not on top of the leaves.
  • Since your plant is indoors, you don't have to worry about weeds, but you may choose to add some fertilizer to the pot about once a month.
  • When the little flowers begin to show up, break these off at their base as it allows the plant to continue getting bigger and bigger.
  • When it comes time to pick the leaves for use, always pick a few leaves from the tops of each plant. Do not pick one plant dry. Basil rejuvenates and gets bigger the more you pick it, so you should be pretty set if you follow these guidelines.

    Wash your basil before use, and chop or shred at the last second if using in a raw dish as it turns brown quickly. If you are cooking it, this part really doesn't matter.

    You can also choose to transfer your basil to the ground when the last frost has passed, or you can just keep it in the pot indoors. An indoor basil plant can last all year long!

    Enjoy your basil!

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