Basil: A Must-Have In Every Garden
In my last post I mentioned that every gardener I know grows tomatoes. Well, the other plant that every gardener I know grows is basil! They go hand in hand, even though they are fabulous on their own, too.
Basil has been around for centuries. It is part of the mint family, and there are two distinct types: sweet basil and Thai basil. The aroma is very distinct and fragrant, and there are many dishes that would not be the same without basil. Classic pesto is a perfect example, and you will find a link to my recipe at the end of this post.
Basil grows well in warm weather. If you are planting seeds or transplanting seedlings, it’s necessary to make sure all danger of frost has passed. Keep basil plants moist in well-drained soil. If it’s very hot in your area, mulching helps the plant hold in moisture.
In young basil plants, allow the plant to produce at least six leaves. Then pinch off the stem above the second set of leaves. This helps the plant grow more branches to produce more leaves. Whenever that new branch has six to eight leaves, pinch off above the second set. This will force the plant to grow even more branches.
When the weather is consistently in the 80’s the basil will fill out and flourish. Then you can start harvesting a lot. I harvest the top part of each branch, counting down from the top at least three sets of leaves, and pinching off that part of the branch. The video at the bottom of this post will show you exactly how to do it.
Freezing is the best method for storing basil that you plan to use in soups, sautés and other recipes that call for cooking. Wash and dry the basil, then store it in freezer bags. You can also blend it with olive oil and portion it out in an ice cube tray.
Drying is another method, although some of the flavor will be lost.
My favorite way to store basil is to make pesto throughout the summer, and then freeze it into small jars. None of the flavor is lost, and it is convenient to take out a jar to add to eggs, pasta, or to use as a garnish with soups.
Bonus Recipe: Classic Pesto
Thanks for reading, and stay in touch. Leave me a comment about your basil harvest.