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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Basil Blues

I love food, but I really love Italian food the most. This is a picture of me in front of the terraces of the Cinque Terre in Italy during my study abroad trip there. I enjoyed some of the best Italian food while on this trip and am counting the days until I can get back!

One of the spices that makes Italian food so yummy is basil! Consumers who might enjoy fresh basil in their Italian dishes might have a challenge finding it in the grocery store soon. A fungus is damaging the US basil crop.

Known more scientifically as, basil downy mildew, it causes spots and lesions on basil plants highly reducing the quality of the popular herb used in Italian dishes. Organic basil growers are going to be the hardest hit because of restrictions with fungicide use on certified organic farms. As much as one-fourth of the US basil crop is being damaged by this fungus.

Here are some interesting facts I found about Basil and it really gives an economic view of the impact basil downy mildew will have:

  • Basil is the most commonly grown herb in the US.
  • One acre of basil can be worth more than $10,000 an acre.
  • Many basil farmers are considered potted basil growers meaning their crop is grown in pots.
  • Basil fungus is sensitive to warmer temperatures and drying conditions.
  • The most common variety of basil used in Italian cuisine, sweet basil, is the variety hardest hit by the fungus.

If there is a shortage of fresh basil in grocery stores near me, I guess I will have to revert to dried basil for any marinara sauces I make. For my favorite dish, pesto sauce, dried basil is no substitution!

All my best,

Tera Rooney


  1. Hi Tera - I studied in Italy as well! I lived in Torino so was not too far away from Cinque Terre (my happy place!). Where did you live?

  2. It's a good thing we already have about 3 vials of basil in our kitchen or that fungus could be a real problem!

  3. Cow lover - I went on a short 11 day study abroad through Kansas State. Our College of Ag does a wonderful job of providing opportunities abroad to students. We visited Milan, Florence, the Cinque Terre and Venice. We spent most of our time around Florence learning about animal agriculture. I loved the Cinque Terre though!

  4. Basil and oregano make everything better.

  5. I have five overflowing pots of basil on my patio. You're welcome to as much as you want; as long as you share your pesto recipe. No fungus here - and completely organic! (I'm not necessarily organic by choice; merely by default. I'm in my rookie basil year!)



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