Basil- Go beyond the ordinary
Basil is an easy plant to grow from seed. The seed is a pretty shiny black color and large enough to handle easily. Being an annual plant, the seed germinates in 7 to 10 days in soil that is around 70 deg. F. You can start basil indoors to have it ready in about 6 weeks for planting outdoors. Be sure to harden it off before planting in the garden or a large outdoor container.
I hear from people that they'd rather buy a plant than start basil from seed. Unless you are lucky enough to have a herb nursery near you, your choice of basil types will be limited if you only purchase plants. If you are adventurous enough to try your hand at seeding basil, your choices of varieties open up considerably. There are so many types of basil, it's difficult to choose just a few. They all have different flavors and somewhat different growth habits.
Then there are the purple leaved basils: Red Rubin, Osmin Purple, Purple Ruffles and Amethyst.
These add great interest in the garden, in flower arrangements and as a garnish. You can also use it like any sweet basil, but remember, it'll turn your dish a darker color.
It has a bit stronger flavor than other basil, in my estimation. It also has many health and healing benefits and is often administered in a tea. For more information on Holy Basil, here are a couple of web sites:
There's a variety of Holy Basil called 'Red and Green' which makes a terrific decorative annual. The leaves are as described, red and green. The plant grows fairly tall, up to about 20 inches and then flowers.
Add all ingredients and process until you have a smooth, well-mixed pesto. The consistency should be similar to that of mayonnaise.
This is a little more work than using a food processor, but makes an equally delicious pesto.
Place about a quarter of the basil leaves in the jar adding 1/2 cup oil, the nuts and cheese. Blend (I use the puree setting or high setting.)
You'll need a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to push the mixture down onto the blades fairly often. ---Don't do what I did one time.... and stick a wooden spoon in the jar before the blades stopped turning. The spoon was jerked from my hand, bounced out of the jar, sprayed oil and basil everywhere and broke the spoon inside the jar. I threw the whole mess away and had to start over so I didn't have splinters in the pesto.
In other words.... wait until the blades have stopped turning before sticking the spoon in!!!
After you have that first mix pretty well blended and the nuts are well ground, just keep adding the basil leaves about a handful at time until all the leaves are used up. If the mix is too thick, add a little oil to thin it down.
It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth. In fact, I like the pesto a little coarse so I can see the leaves, but the nuts should be well ground.
To preserve the pesto, I fill ice cube trays with the mixture and freeze it over night. The next day I remove the pesto cubes and store them in a plastic bag or tub in the freezer. One cube is one serving.
Pesto can be made with other leafy green herbs. Parsley mixed with basil is tasty. Cilantro and parsley is very good, too, especially with chicken enchiladas or even Indian food like curry.
Low Fat, Full Flavor Purple Basil PestoMakes about 1-1/2 cups
Follow directions for Pesto (above).
Recipe and picture courtesy of Farmgirl Fare.
Purple basil isn't as pretty as the green and does make a rather oddly colored pesto (as you can see in the photo above). Mixing a few green leaves into the pesto does help brighten it up a bit.
To make herbal vinegar is very simple. Take a clean jar.....I like to use either a quart or pint canning jar because the mouth is wide enough to easily add the herbs. Fill the jar with the herbs of your choice.
For a pint jar, about 2 cups of fresh herbs is enough. For a quart jar, 3 - 4 cups will work.
Then fill the jar with the vinegar of your choice. Wine or champagne vinegar is great, although costly when making a lot of vinegars. Next best is rice vinegar. You can usually find it in large containers (such as 1 gallon) at an Asian grocery. The cost is quite a bit lower than purchasing the vinegar in small quantities. As a last resort, you may use regular white vinegar.......the kind used for canning. It'll give your vinegar a sharper flavor. But, it's better than no herbal vinegar at all!!!
Harvest your herbs in the late morning after the early dew has dried, but before the heat of the day really sets in. The volatile oils are at their peak at this time. If you live where it's dusty and the herbs need to be washed, swish them in a container of water briefly, then let them dry before making the herb vinegar. If it's practical, wash the plants off the day before you plan to harvest them. Then, you don't have to wash them the day you are making the vinegar.
Let the infusion steep for about 2 weeks. Then, pour off the vinegar, straining particles out if necessary. Now you can fill decorative bottles or any bottle of your choice with the flavored vinegar, adding a sprig or two of fresh herbs for looks.
Flavored vinegar should be stored in a dark place or at least out of direct sunlight. Experiment with some of the combinations below, or make up your own. Think of flavors that sound like they'd taste good together. Most of all, do it and have fun.
QUOTE FOR THE MONTH
Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong. -Dandamis, sage (4c BCE)
Good Growing to You,
Cindy Meredith, proprietor
The Herb Cottage
442 CR 233
Hallettsville, TX 77964
phone & fax: 979-562-2153