Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harvest Your Basil!

Welcome fellow Master Gardener Jerry Lewis with a guest post on harvesting his basil.

Purple Ruffled Basil
Photo - J. Lewis
There is still time to harvest your basil and make up lots of pesto for the winter. I have about 6 different kinds of basil, I just mix them all together. A couple pictures of basil plants here shows purple ruffled basil, a really nice garden plant even if you don’t use it for culinary purposes, genovese basil, with its large and shiny leaves, and a purple basil that has smaller leaves but is easy to cut and grows well.

Genovese Basil
Photo - J. Lewis

Purple Basil
Photo - J. Lewis
Harvesting just means cutting the basil off a couple stems below the flower head (you should cut it before it flowers - I have been gone too often this summer)

Picked and Rinsed
Photo - J. Lewis

As you cut the leaves, make sure you have a sharp scissors and try to cut the leaf with as little stem as possible.

Trimming Leaves
Photo - J. Lewis

Trimming Leaves

If you’re patient enough, make sure you get those tiny little leaves growing out of the stem, they are the tenderest and tastiest, but the hardest to get.

Don't Miss the Little Guys
Photo - J. Lewis

The stems go in the compost, or in the fireplace to scent your room, or in the outside fire pit to add some spice to your fire at night.

I use basil in everything - my tomato juice, my spaghetti sauce, my scrambled eggs, my roasted vegetables. I like the smell even more than the taste, so I just like to hang around wherever it is. When I brought in the latest harvest, the smell lingered throughout the house for half the day - cheaper than those scented candles... But what I like best is pesto - that’s pesto anything, and I’ll leave you to find the recipes you like best. My wife’s pesto recipe is simple and easy to make:

- 1 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

- 1/3 cup olive oil

- 1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts (or walnuts)

- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Freezer Ready
Photo - J. Lewis
Chop the basil leaves finely (we use a food processor), add the pine nuts, blend; add the cheese and olive oil and blend again, scrape down the sides of the container and the mixture forms a thick paste. The pesto keeps in the refrigerator for a week; it freezes for a few months.

Using Ice Cube Trays
Photo - J. Lewis
The latest innovation at our house is freezing the pesto in ice cube trays - just pack it in the trays and add a bit of water to each and freeze it. Then you have individual serving size pesto batches for whatever you need it for!

So go look up some pesto recipes and try them out, We’re making tomato basil soup today. But what ever you do, don’t forget to stop and smell the basil.

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