Thursday, July 7, 2011

Basil Harvest

I hope next summer to have a raised veggie garden in the back yard, since you know, this spring I was a tad bit busy having a baby.  But when I did the planter make over I did put a little basil plant in amongst the zinnias, margarita flowers and sweet potato vines.  To be honest, the basil didn't look that hot when I planted it and the planters get full sun all day, so I didn't think the basil had a chance in the Texas heat.  But to my surprise, the basil is taking off like crazy.  In fact, so that it doesn't take over the whole planter, I had to do a little mini harvest.

No stranger to big batches of basil, I tried to figure out how to store it.  In the past I have made the basil into a pesto and frozen it in ice cube trays for adding to sauces and pasta dishes in the winter.  Yum.  However, since its only the first of July and I have already had to collect some, I have a feeling there will be enough for pesto later in the summer.  So I thought I would try my hand at drying my own basil for the winter.

Here's how I did it:

First I clipped the basil from the garden.  I had read that in order to totally not shock your plant you need to leave behind about 25% of the plant.  That way it can continue to grow through the rest of the season and you can do a second harvest in August (hello pesto cubes!).  So I clipped the plant back.

Next, I soaked the clippings in cool water.  Now lots of "pros" suggest not doing this step but its a safe, effective way to clean bugs and dirt off them.  And my desired outcome is dried basil, not bugs in the house.  I soaked them for maybe 15 minutes, fully submerged in a bowl of cool water.

Then I removed the clippings (and took the bowl of water out to water my newly shorn basil plant) and aid them out on a towel to air dry.

Once they were air dried I removed any discolored or yucky looking leaves (yes, yucky is a technical term).  Then I took the ends loosely (making sure that air could flow between clippings and leaves and tied the ends together with baker's twine and hung it upsie down somewhere cool and dry and away from the sun (at this point in the process it can loose flavor with too much exposure to UV rays...or so they say).

When they dry I will take them down, remove the leaves and store them in a glass or plastic air tight container, I will store the leaves whole because I have read that it preserves the flavor better if you wait to crush the leaf when you are ready to use it.

On the whole it was really easy.  I can't wait to use it in my veggie, chicken manicotti dish this winter.  If you had an extra stash of basil what dishes would you use it for?

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