Sunday, February 13, 2011

On Growing and Buying Basil

My favorite area of the garden to work is the bed where the basil is planted.  I don't even mind weeding that one because I know each time my arm brushes against it, or the bindweed slaps it as it gets ripped out and crammed into the trash, the sweet sexy smell of basil gets released into the air.  When I'm working in that bed I breath long deep breaths hoping to get a whiff of it and in doing so I've accidentally transported myself into a more meditative place.  I am breathing like I am doing yoga.

The other day I paid over five dollars for a small jar of dried basil.  As a gardener who grows basil every year, it crushed me to do it.  But, I have been making soup like crazy this winter and nearly every recipe calls for basil.  Even if it doesn't, I add it, anyway.  Because, more basil! Everything needs more basil!

Basil has got to be the easiest herb to grow in a home garden.  I am notorious for neglecting my garden but while other plants sometimes suffer, the basil flourishes.  In my garden it is very disease resistant and will grow where ever I stick it.  In past years I have seriously underutilized my basil crop.  I chop up a few leaves for pizza or salad and some gets used in the marinara I can but most of it gets sent to work with my husband who gives it to his coworker who gives it to her father who loves to make pesto.  I get up early in the morning and traipse out to the garden, sleepy-eyed, still in my pajamas to harvest it.  I bring in whatever will fit in my giant old blue plastic strainer, wash it, pick off any leaves with the slightest blemish then label the bag.  Organic Basil.  Harvested today!  I feel proud.  I think my husband does, too.  

This year I'm growing a lot more basil.  And I'm trying some new-to-me varieties.  Thai basil for one. A spicy Greek one and some type of red basil.  Maybe some others, too.  I forget.  After being traumatized by buying that dried basil, I went crazy shopping for basil seed vowing never to purchase dried basil, again.  I should have plenty to give away this year but I'm also studying up on the best ways to dry and store basil.  My good friend tells me I should just wash the leaves and freeze them while they're still fresh.  I'll try this too.

If you store your own basil, I'd love to hear how you do it.  Do you freeze it fresh?  Do you dry it?  If so, what's the process for drying it and what do you store it in?  And if you have a garden but have never grown basil, please!  Grow it this year!  Whether you have an in-ground garden or you garden in containers, it will not disappoint you.

6 comments:

  1. I didn't grow nearly enough basil last year, and was SO disappointed at not having lots of frozen pesto and plain basil leaves in the freezer this winter. More basil, for sure!!

    I freeze whole leaves sometimes, as your friend recommends. Most often, I freeze them either as pesto, or in ice cube trays with a bit of olive oil. I used to freeze them in water in ice cube trays, but when they melted they just watered down recipes. A little more olive oil never hurt anybody :-)

    I dry it too, by hanging it from the rafters in my garage. That works very well.

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  2. The Spicy Greek & the Thai basil are awesome together. I grew them both last year and love the taste of both of them combined.

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  3. I grow Genovese basil! The leaves can be as large as my hand. I keep the plant short and stocky. I make gallons of pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays for use in winter. I also dry it by leaving the leaves on paper towels on the little used dining room table. I keep the spice jars that I empty throughout the year. When the basil leaves are dark and dry, I crumble them up into the clean spice containers..way better than store bought stuff!!

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  4. Basil is my favorite, too! It's so forgiving, and always makes me happy when I pick it.

    Last year was the first time I harvested it all at the end of the season - usually I end up losing it to that frost that I was sure wouldn't happen :(

    I dumped it in the food processor & whirled it up with olive oil, froze it in ice cube trays and stored the cubes in a Ziploc bag. Yummy in soups, pasta sauce etc. Will grow more this year now I know how easy it is to store!

    Love your blog! I'm in Will county and like to read all the local Chicago area bloggers!

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  5. I love growing basil, it's carefree and easy! I never seem to grow enough though! I freeze mine, after a quick wash. I rarely grow enough to make it through January though. I am definitely going to try to grow much more this year. I have a friend who cans the basics for pesto, just olive, pine nuts, and basil and salt. So when you open the jars you just have add cheese and a little salt. He sent me some for Christmas and it was GORGEOUS, and I think i am going to give that a try this year. I love basil.

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  6. I am going to try to freeze some this year for pesto...is it so expensive in the store. I dried some and it still smells like basil, but I miss the fresh stuff from summer.

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