Basil Plants – How To Care for Them & Using The Leaves

We just recently got in some pots of fresh, organic basil! This is perfect timing, since Michigan tomatoes are not far behind and the two are perfect culinary partners. It has been brought to our attention that while most people enjoy fresh herbs, they can be a little intimidating to use. So we’re going to share some basic tips that may make basil ownership a bit less daunting, as well as a few common uses.

First we’ll cover how to care for a basil plant. They are sun loving and the soil should be kept damp, but not too wet. If the plant gets too much water, it may show distress by the bottom leaves turning yellow. If it’s getting too little water, the leaves will start to look wrinkled and limp. Just give it a good dose of water and it should return back to normal. If you purchase the plant from us, you can either leave it in the pot and place it in a sunny window, or plant it outside. Basil does not like cold weather, so avoid cold air vents and, if you plant it outside, know that it won’t last through the first frost. Your plant will start to grow some flowers, and you’ll want to pinch those off. Once the plant grows flowers it will stop growing leaves, so removing the flowers will encourage your plant to continue growing.

Now for the exciting part – including it in your dishes! When you’re ready to use them, just pick a few leaves, rinse them off, and pat them dry. Brandy likes to lay them on top of each other and cut them all at once. You can cut them into thin strips or small pieces, whichever you prefer. Don’t use the stem, just the leaves. If you are having pizza delivered, or opening up a can of tomato soup, chop some up and sprinkle it on top. If you’re making a tomato sauce, for something like spaghetti, add about 1 tablespoon. We’ll share with you Brandy’s favorite way to use fresh basil – she likes to cut it into smaller pieces and mix with chopped mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh cracked pepper, salt, and a little olive oil. She will then serve the dish as a side, as a topping for French bread (brushetta style), or will use it to fill portabella mushroom caps to go on the grill or in the oven.

The nice thing about the basil plant is that the more often you pick leaves the more the plant is encouraged to grow. So stop in and pick up a plant to take home and discover for yourself how great fresh basil is!


One of my favorite discoveries as a relatively new associate with Mert’s was the game freezer.  Among many surprises I found kangaroo.  It seemed only natural to go to the people that farm them for recipes and I was happy to find one in particular that is perfect for, not only winter, but for something completely different before the yearly turkey assault.

You will need:

about 2 pounds of kangaroo meat, a small jar/tin of curry paste, 6 medium potatoes, 3 carrots, 28 oz can diced tomatoes, 6 tablespoons of your preferred vegetable oil, margarine, or butter, 2 onions, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon grated ginger or a teaspoon of powdered, 2 sliced red chilies, 1 can beef stock, red wine vinegar, salt, water.

To get started, take the kangaroo that has been thawing in your refrigerator for a day or so and put in your slow cooker, still turned off, to allow the meat to come to room temperature – about 30-60 minutes.

While this is going on, you peel the carrots and potatoes and cut them up – the potatoes into heavy wedges and the carrots into rounds about 1/2 inch thick, your choice.

In another area you will have your onions, garlic and ginger, slicing the onions finely, mincing the garlic, and grating the ginger.  Do not mix them with anything else yet.  To them add the sliced red chilies, discarding seeds if you want less heat.

Now we turn to the kangaroo.  Cut the meat into pieces about the size of the last joint of your thumb – being careful not to add thumb to the recipe!

With a heavy bottomed skillet, heat, at medium high, 2 tablespoons of oil.  When it’s hot, add a couple handfuls of meat to the pan and brown it for no more than 2 minutes.  You’ll have to do this in batches to avoid crowding this process, and to assure even browning.  Add more oil if needed.

During this time, if you feel like a bit of juggling, layer the potatoes and carrots in the slow cooker.

Take the browned meat and add it to the top of the vegetables, layering nicely.  Use it all.  Now return to the frying pan.  With two more tablespoons of oil, bring to medium heat again and add the onions.  Add a pinch of salt to the frying onions to sweat them and help them to turn from clear to golden.  That only takes a few minutes, so keep an eye on them and stir occasionally.

Now create a space in the middle of your pan of onions – add the chilies there, the garlic and the ginger.  Stir it around until you can really smell it.  Wow!  In another space, you’ve carved into the onion field, add half of the curry paste then stir this whole mixture around until you can really smell that curry.  This is how the mess hall got its name.  Now add the can of tomatoes and beef stock.  If this is too much for your frying pan, transfer all and include the scrapings from the pan to a large saucepan.  Let all of this cook down a bit and get concentrated.  Then pour it all over the meat and vegetables in the slow cooker.  The curry and onions, etc., will be tenderizing the meat so make sure it’s all coated with this curry mixture.

Finally – cover and set slow cooker for 4 hours at high or 8 hours at low.  At the end of the cook time there may be a bit of separation and a little mixing will fix that.  Serve with rice and mango chutney . . . and possibly, an India Pale Ale.

This recipe works for any meat, but for chicken or pork, use chicken broth instead of beef and brown it longer – about 4-5 minutes.

This recipe is a great go to for kangaroo, but there are many recipes online – mostly from Australia and New Zealand.  Cheers!

by Alan Coe