Caprese. Margherita pizza. Pesto. Nearly every living, breathing, sentient human being I know has had a little Italian love affair with at least one of these dishes. These are also easy to make in a dorm room — if you have the ingredients, that is.

Tomatoes are easy enough to keep on hand, but even the most foodie of freshmen isn’t likely to have a sprig of basil on the shelf next to that jar of Nutella. That needs to change.

This may sound a little crazy, but it’s my humble opinion that every college student should own a potted basil plant. Even in a musty dorm room, it’s possible to maintain a small plant on a window sill. All it requires is a little sunlight and a dash of water from the sink every once in a while.

Basil is one of the least finicky plants to maintain, and it is an essential ingredient in nearly every kitchen. Furthermore, it instantly adds a little interest to any dish. Even a sad bowl of microwaved ramen is easily dressed up with a sprig of basil. Add a few leaves to a sliced ball of mozzarella and some tomato and an easy caprese is ready for a sandwich, a salad or just a plate.

I’ll be the first to admit that I kill any plant I handle. Whereas many people have green thumbs, mine is black — any greenery that I try to bring into my life soon withers under my touch. But theatrics aside, I’ve found that keeping a basil plant alive is one thing that even I can do.

The plant itself is pretty compact and can be bought at any grocery store, already planted and ready for the shelf. Furthermore, the plant provides a little bit of decoration to the dorm room. It can survive over a week without watering and resiliently bounces back from the brink of death. You won’t feel guilty leaving it for two weeks at winter break. It will survive. You could put your energy into a regular potted flower, but you wouldn’t be able to eat it.

Once you’ve made the leap and invested in a plant that will set you back only three dollars, it’s easy to “harvest.” Every time that you want to use a few leaves, just grab the leaves by the base and pull them from the stem. Scissors shouldn’t be necessary. Simply rinse the leaves off in the sink and they’re ready to be used as a garnish, a base for pesto or whatever else your heart desires. One plant should be able to provide enough leaves for nearly any recipe.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, buy a plant. It’s easy to get basil seeds online, but I don’t recommend this. Save yourself the time and the trouble and just buy a plant from the grocery store.

When you have your basil plant and are ready to impress your friends, try this recipe for Basil and Lime Granita. This recipe takes a little more effort but is well worth the work.

Basil and Lime Granita

Ingredients:

1 wineglass water
1 wineglass sugar
1 cup lime juice
lime zest (use a cheese grater on a lime to zest)
1 large bunch basil

Prep: Mix the sugar and water in a pan over the stove and bring it to a boil with the lime zest. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Pound the basil into a puree and add the lime juice. Pour this through a sieve (paper towels can work here) and place in the freezer. It should take about two hours to freeze, but try to mix it every 30 minutes.

Erin Hickok is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. District on a Dime appears every other week in the guide.

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