Next to tomatoes and peppers, fresh basil is arguably the best thing about the summer garden. We’ve been luxuriating in it. Everything tastes better with basil in it, even dessert. I spread some basil butter on zucchini bread and almost fell out of my chair.
I planted LOTS this year and it’s time to go beyond “a sprig here, a sprig there” kind of harvesting before it flowers and the leaves begin to turn bitter and sparse. A nice haircut now will promote a fresh flush of growth as the plant resets to get to the flowering stage again.
I went out with my scissors and harvest basket and with only a few mosquito bites for my trouble, I brought in the bounty in the photo at the top of the post. I have three kinds of basil:
Sweet basil. Classic basil flavor, perfect for pesto, Caprese Salad, dressings. Everything really.
Last but not least, Anise basil. This is my first year to grow this stuff and I am in love with it. I was worried it might be too perfumey or too strong for me, but it really is just the most delicious, versatile, perfectly flavored, did I say delicious? basil ever. Right now we’re eating it on fresh pole beans with red bell pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Run, don’t walk, to get some of this revelation.
I am going to make pesto from the sweet and mammoth basil and dry the leaves of the anise basil. It has an intense flavor I believe will stand up well to drying. While many people freeze herbs in ice cubes to retain the fresh flavor, I don’t have the freezer space for that (and our power goes out with too much regularity). I love the convenience of dried herb mixes. (See how to dry leaves in a microwave here.) Here’s a favorite of mine, and a preview of one of the recipes in our book that’s coming out early next year.
Italian Herb Seasoning, no salt
Mix together 2 Tablespoons EACH, dried:
- red pepper flakes
- minced dried garlic
Store in an airtight container.
So good on eggs, in salad dressing, anything Italian. A little peeunch between the cheek and gum . . .