Some of you may have noticed a distinct absence of Steve’s garden involvement over the past month. In fact, he just returned from a month-long trip to Gabon, which meant I’ve been tending the garden by myself.
But he’s back, and last night, he came out to join me in the garden before dinner. As I pointed out things to him that I had seen in the past month, I showed him something that I first noticed, to my horror, a couple of weeks ago. Some sort of gnarly, bumpy, nasty brown stuff seemed to be working its way up the stalk of our Genovese basil plant.
A quick search of the Internet revealed that it was scale, and that the common remedy is to rip out the plant and give it up for dead. But the leaves looked great if you didn’t look at the plant from the side, and honestly, I wasn’t pinching leaves to eat from the worst part of the plant. It’s in a container, and therefore not spreading to other parts of the garden.
My verdict? Keep it, and struggle on through the season. I’d rather live with a little scale than live without basil. It’s sort of like my fine balance between extreme tomato eating and canker sores.
The plant continues to grow and thrive, and the scale continues to spread, although not as quickly as the plant grows above it, so I’ve remained in wait-and-see mode.
Last night, when I showed Steve, I completely forgot what the actual plant disease was called.
“See?” I said. “It has scabies.”
“Scabies?” he replied. “On a plant? Eeeuw.”
“Give me the scissors and I’ll cut some for dinner.”
“Are you kidding me?” He moved evasively back toward the house. “I don’t want to get scabies from the basil plant.”
“You’re not going to get scabies,” I said. “It’s FINE. I’ve been eating it for weeks. I just cut off the part that doesn’t touch the scabies.”
He shuddered and continued toward the house.
“What if I cut from the other basil plant?” I said, pointing at the Genovese’s lighter, less flavorful cousin across the yard.
“I don’t want to get scabies,” he said.
I clipped a stalk from the non-infected plant and followed him inside. The stalk I clipped had some great leaves at the top, but as the leaves got closer to the base of the plant, they were marked with a red dot pattern that probably indicates some other kind of horrible plant disease I have yet to learn about.
After I washed the leaves, I turned them over to him for use in dinner preparation. Steve began removing them one at a time from the stem, until he got to the red-dotted leaves.
“Do these have scabies?” he asked.
Suddenly, I remembered what the actual disease was called. “It’s not scabies!” I announced, with triumph. “It’s scale!”
“I don’t want that either,” he said.
We threw out the offending leaves, and used the good ones. But I’m not abandoning the Genovese plant. Not when it’s presenting me with clean stems above the scale-laden part.