Ask the Gardeners, Q&A

Q We have garden seeds left over from our spring planting and wonder if they can be saved for next year. Keeping leftover seeds cool and dry usually maintains good germination for another year. Some flower seeds such as calendula do not keep well, but most vegetables and many flower seeds do.

Using dry milk will help seeds remain dry. Lay two or three thicknesses of paper handkerchiefs on a table and sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of dry milk in the center.

Fold the edges of the tissue toward the center so the dry milk is securely wrapped inside. A rubber band around the ``package'' is helpful. Put it and the seeds in a glass jar (a quart, wide-mouth mayonnaise jar is good), then screw the lid on tightly.

Keep above 32 degrees F. (although some seeds tolerate freezing) and below 60 degrees F. (45-55 degrees F. if possible). In the spring test the germination by laying 10 seeds between constantly moist paper towels and note the percent of germination after two weeks or so. If below 75 percent, it is best to get new seeds. Q At a party last week everyone at our table was talking about basil. I felt quite ignorant, knowing little about it, except that it is an herb used for seasoning. I gathered there are several types and also there is something made from it called pesto sauce (or is it pestle?). Could you give some added information?

We have long used basil in both cooked and raw recipes, since one of us has roots in the northern Mediterranean area where it grows abundantly and is used profusely.

Pesto sauce probably got its name from the fact that cooks in southern France and northern Italy make a sauce from the leaves and formerly ground the ingredients with a mortar and pestle.

Our basic recipe is prepared in a food processor nowadays and includes: 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves; 2 cloves garlic; 1/4 cup pine nuts; 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese; 3/4 cup olive oil.

Plant breeders are working on new basil cultivars, including bush type, especially suited for container gardeners. We have come upon a good paperback book on basil called ``The Basil Book'' by Marilyn Hampstead (Long Shadow Books, New York). It discusses types of basil (lettuce-leaved, purple, lemon, and many others) and includes recipes.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturalists.

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