It's basil-bustin' time

This basil's doing way better than mine. Mine is almost done for the season - leaves are curled up and getting crisp and yellow, everything gone to seed. The kids in this photo are in Nancy Hansell's culinary arts class at South Philadelphia High School, which I visited yesterday. They're in the first season of a new vegetable garden, built with raised beds on two asphalt patches on either side of the school's huge parking lot.

 The kids are working with Kris, a restaurant in South Philly, in preparation for the Oct. 19 fundraiser - PHeaSt - for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's City Harvest program, which is six years old now and has donated more than 180,000 pounds of organic produce to food cupboards and soup kitchens that supply needy families. It's a terrific program and a lot of community gardeners in the city are familiar with it and participate.


For this fundraiser, PHS is pairing up urban gardeners and farmers with chefs. The growers provide the fresh stuff; the chefs create a dish with it. Both - and the dishes, some 250 individual samples of each - will be on hand at the event, which is being held at the Navy Yard. I talked yesterday with Al Paris, chef at Heirloom, the restaurant at the top of the hill in Chestnut Hill. He's deep into the local, fresh food movement and plans to use pumpkin, kale and carrots from Henry Got Crops, the farm/CSA over at Saul High School in Roxborough, to make a pumpkin-kale tart with carrot "bacon." He makes the "bacon" by brining the carrots, then smoking them and baking them in the oven with molasses and pepper. (Now that's a bacon I could eat.)

Watch for a story in the Food section on Thursday, Oct. 11. Meanwhile, this weekend before the rain starts, I think it's time to harvest the remnants of my basil crop for the annual pesto marathon. I've never figured out how to freeze pesto, but I keep on trying.