Saturday, August 18, 2012

Harvesting basil for seasoning & pesto

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Basil before harvesting
For basil harvest, the key is to harvest before the basil gets too woody.  Mid-summer is typically a good time.  Cut each stem back to the last 4 leaves.   Don't worry that the leaves you expose are not as green as the top growth.  This is natural since they have not gotten as much sun as the leaves on the outside.  Give each plant a good dose and fish emulsion to support quick leaf regrowth.

You can freeze, dry or make basil into pesto.  For freezing, you can freeze into ice cubes to be able to pop into sauces.  If you want to be able to use individual leaves, remove the leaves from the stem, lay on a cookie sheet, put in the freezer, when completely frozen, place the frozen leaves into freezer bags.  
Basil after harvesting

For drying, I place the cut stems into a paper bag that I put in a dry, warm place.  Be sure to leave lots of open space between stems to discourage any mold.  When completely dry, I remove the leaves and place in canning jars.

Pesto is a mixture of fresh basil, traditionally pine nuts (but I use any kind of nut I have on hand-walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, cashews), parmesan cheese, a few cloves of garlic, and olive oil.  You can add spinach or parsley.  Just throw them all together in a food processor and ta-da pesto!

I use about 8 cups of packed leaves (be sure to not include any tough stems), 1/2 cup nuts, 1 and 1/2 cups of olive oil, 1 and 1/2 cups of Parmesan, 8 cloves of fresh garlic.  After processing, I put half each in a quart freezer bag, lay flat in the freezer until ready to use.  Just thaw and toss with your favorite pasta or add to pizza, bruschetta, sauce for a quick and tasty meal.  Lots of options!

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