Many years ago we had great fun helping out at our local 'vendemmia' or grape harvest. The small vineyard belonged to our neighbours Bruna and Alberto who knew that we were keen to get involved. After some instructions as to how we should pick the grapes we soon set to work. We had prepared ourselves for a very long and hard day. However, after about an hour of working and chatting across the rows of vines with other villagers who had come to help , we were all given the signal to stop for a break. We were offered a sample of the previous year's vintage and then we resumed picking the grapes. About an hour after this we enjoyed another short break and even more 'vino'. This was the pattern until we reached lunch time when once more 'everything ground to a halt'. We all huddled around a small vehicle whose bonnet had been magically transformed into a table top complete with a red and white check tablecloth. Bruna and Alberto were the perfect hosts and provided us with a hearty Tuscan lunch: huge chunks of Tuscan bread, flavoursome pecorino cheese, proscuitto (ham) and of course more wine. After a great many plastic cartons of wine, chatter and laughter soon filled the air. Following our most enjoyable lunch we returned to the vines and we filled up more plastic pails with grapes. Before long we had collected every last grape. As a reward for our labours we were given a bottle of grappa. It certainly was an experience we will never forget although it has to be said that I can't quite remember how we climbed back up the hill to our house!
I love to grow and use herbs in both cooking and making natural cosmetics. Basil is used a great deal in Italian cooking, think Pesto, Caprese salad...... mmmm I'm already feeling hungry! Basil can be grown easily as a windowsill plant. I adore the smell of basil it is so uplifting. Even if you don't grow your own and just buy it from a supermarket you will notice it's scent immediately. Interestingly, what I haven't always noticed is the flower of this herb. I must say though that it is a most interesting dainty white flower that really deserves to be seen. Generally the flowers are snipped off from the plant as soon as they appear since it is thought that they slow the production of leaves and reduce the flavour. If like me you would like to appreciate the flowers then just pop them in a vase and enjoy.