This morning I went into the garden to do some major harvesting. The week before the East Sac Edible Gardens Tour I slowed my harvesting so that visitors to my house would see what some of the vegetables looked like. This meant that I had an abundance of peppers, basil and squashes that were ready to be harvested this morning. Take a look at today’s haul! You are looking at about a pound of tomatoes, 2 pounds of basil, 8 pounds of peppers, and 3 and 1/2 pounds of Trombetta squash. Guess I will be busy today making pesto and pickled Jalapeños!
The other day I harvested basil and made pesto so I have decided to do a post about my pesto. The first pesto recipe I used was a vegan recipe from Ida Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan with a Vengeance. Over the years, I have changed the recipe to meet my tastes. I love my pesto to be super lemony and garlicky. I never measure any of the ingredients because it usually depends on how much basil I harvest at the time. I’ve made it so many times that I can eyeball what I need and then I always have a baguette around to taste test as I go along… sometimes I end up eating it straight out of the mixer. I also make huge batches of pesto at once usually a few quarts at a time since I harvest so much basil.
- 1 & 1/2 cups walnuts
- About 6 cups of packed basil leaves (usually I fill my 9 cup food processor once, quickly blitz the leaves and fill it up a second time)
- 3 to 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of one or two lemons
Pick your basil straight from the garden (it is freshest this way and makes for better tasting pesto). Wash the leaves, put through a salad spinner or dry on a towel. Make sure the basil leaves are completely dry before making the pesto. Toast the walnuts in a toaster oven (or regular oven) at 350°F for about 5 minutes on a baking sheet. Let the walnuts cool. If you make pesto with hot walnuts the nuts will wilt your fresh basil leaves.
Blitz the basil in a food processor (or blender) first. Then add walnuts, garlic, salt and lemon juice. Blend in the food processor until combined, scraping down the sides as you go. Continue to process while adding the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Sample at this point and add more ingredients to your taste.
You can add parmesan cheese to your pesto if you would like but honestly if you up the lemon and garlic you really don’t miss the cheese. I make my pesto without cheese and add it when I eat it. This is because I freeze pesto in quart Ziploc bags and it is better to add the cheese in right before you eat it. The pesto freezes really well in these bags. I lay the bag flat on a cookie sheet so it freezes flat, then I stack them in my freezer. When we want pesto I take a bag out of the freezer and open it up while still frozen. I transfer the pesto into a container to let it thaw (it is much easier this way and isn’t a mess trying to get the pesto out of a bag later). Making pesto fresh in the summer and freezing it allows you to enjoy pesto all winter long!
Many people make their pesto with pine nuts. I find that walnuts have a much bolder, darker flavor which I love about this recipe. Also walnuts are so much cheaper than pine nuts. When making pesto in bulk, walnuts are the way to go! I think one day I will need a walnut tree to match my field of basil. Once you make your own, you will never buy expensive, flavorless store-bought pesto again! We eat the pesto with pasta, on sandwiches, or slathered on a toasted baguette. Enjoy!
It’s finally here! Basil season! It took a little longer this year and I don’t think I am going to get as much basil as I did last year but I am so excited my kitchen counters are full of basil drying after their first rinsing. Basil is probably my most favorite plant to grow. It’s easy to grow from seed. I start basil seed under grow lights starting in February and keep sowing periodically month after month to ensure succession planting. I also broadcast some seed directly in the ground when the soil warms but my preferred method is to start basil seeds indoors.
When harvesting basil I keep a few things in mind. First of all basil is a cut and come again plant which means it will be producing all summer. The basil plant will have a main shoot up the middle and several side shoots. To create a bushier plant and encourage more growth, try to cut each growth back keeping one to two leave sets on each branch. In other words, cut the top off just above the second set of leaves from the ground. This will encourage new shoots which will give you more basil over time. I also try not to take more than a third of the plant at a time. Harvesting basil is important so do it often! Basil is quick to form flower heads so you really want to harvest often to discourage the flower heads from forming. When you return the next week to harvest more basil, your plant will be healthier and even bushier than before!
Last year I probably had about 25 basil plants around my property. This yielded me 21.01 pounds of basil. That’s a lot of basil people! What do you do with that much basil? I make pesto and freeze it in quart bags. Frozen pesto was pretty much taking over my freezer which is great considering we (and my extended family) eat it by the spoonful. I was able to harvest basil from May through November of last year so this year I am definitely getting a late start. Most of the basil plants that I put in early didn’t thrive and are already woody and flowering. The plants I put in later seem to be doing fine though so I am hoping to catch up on my pesto production. Yum!