Are your basil plants two-feet high? Mine look like they are trying to take over my garden. The little frog that lives in my raised garden bed loves my basil plants – I think he feels like he's living in a jungle.
Every year I struggle with how to use all the basil in my garden. I'm lucky that I never have a problem growing it, but I definitely have trouble coming up with new and inventive ways to take advantage of the basil surplus.
If you're like me, you'll love these ideas I've tried over the years to use the basil in your garden.
Making Homemade Pesto
Is there anything better than homemade pesto? The fresh taste of the basil mixed with the zing from fresh garlic and the tang of parmesan cheese all work together to create a delicious pesto sauce you can use in a variety of recipes.
I love to use pesto as a pizza sauce, a marinade and glaze for chicken, and as a tasty addition to pasta sauces. It's also delicious as a spread for crusty French bread. Store-bought pesto doesn't even come close to the fresh quality of homemade pesto. Once you taste homemade pesto, you'll never be able to go back to store-bought pesto. Consider yourself warned!
- Start with three cloves of peeled garlic.
- Toast them in a skillet over medium heat until they are fragrant and the outside is browning.
- Let them cool and then chop them up.
- Place about two cups of freshly picked basil leaves into a gallon-sized plastic bag.
- Pound them with a rolling pin until they are very bruised.
- Place the leaves, garlic, seven tablespoons of olive oil, and a half teaspoon of salt into a food processor.
- Process until the pesto has a smooth consistency. Stir in a quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese.
Freezing Pesto to Use in Winter
You can store the pesto in an airtight container for about a week. But I like to make pesto in large batches and then freeze it so I can use it all winter long when I'm missing my crazy basil plants from summer.
There are many different methods for freezing it. One option is to freeze large batches at a time by putting the pesto in a freezer-safe gallon bag and laying it on its side in the freezer. Once it freezes you can stack the pesto bags like books in your freezer, which will save a lot of space. The downside to that method is you'll have a large batch of pesto to use up once you thaw it.
My preferred method allows you to take out a little pesto at a time as you need it. To use this method, scoop the pesto into ice cube trays and let the pesto cubes freeze. Pop them out and place them all in a freeze-safe gallon bag.
Then you can transfer as much as you need into the refrigerator when you want to cook with it. You'll love the freedom of being able to go to your freezer in the dead of winter and take out fresh pesto. Smelling that basil in your food will get you through the long winter and give you hope that spring will eventually arrive.