And not to mention the most rewarding.

By Sarra Sedghi
Updated April 27, 2020
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Basil is a beloved herb for a reason: It works with virtually any other ingredient or flavor profile. Muddled into a drink? Fantastic. Ground up into pesto and paired with pasta, pizza, or meat? Legendary. Basil even works with desserts, especially if citrus is involved. It’s pretty much an essential herb you should keep in your garden, or at least on your windowsill, and it’s ridiculously easy to grow. But it’s even easier to propagate.

For those unfamiliar, propagation is the process in which you create a new plant from an existing plant. Depending on the plant’s type, you can propagate through dividing a plant (separating and then repotting a portion of the plant and its roots), layering a plant, planting a seed, or by taking a cutting of the plant and putting it in dirt or water. This is a super easy project we’re talking about, and involves the latter process. No dirt unless you want it, easy peasy.

I discovered how easily basil could regenerate by accident. Last spring, my mom visited, and one day while I was at work, she noticed that a leaf fell off my basil plant from Trader Joe’s and put it in a cup of water, right next to the existing plant. I didn’t think much of it until a few weeks later, when I glanced over at my kitchen windowsill and noticed a bunch of roots in the cup. Like just about everyone else my age, I adore my plant children, and have experimented with propagation to see how many more plants I could make for free. But I’ve never encountered a process as simple, or as rewarding, as basil.

Put that cup of water in a sunny spot and your basil cutting (or falling leaf, if you’d like), will grow rapidly. You can definitely keep the plant rooted in water, but at the rate it grows, you might want to transfer it to a pot. It’s almost like this stuff is desperate to grow, And once you’ve got enough (It won’t take long, trust me), you can reap the benefits by incorporating your basil into all kinds of dishes. Grind it up with a mortar and pestle and make the best pesto of your life, and freeze a batch or (safely!) deliver some to a neighbor or friend. Add fresh basil to pasta sauce, even (especially) if it’s the jarred stuff. Or, freeze some fresh basil and save it to use once fall rolls around and your plants go back into dormancy.