Kitchen Garden

Basil in the House

Pulling basil leaves from the stem.

This year I grew basil under row cover. It has been the best crop ever.

I harvested a full basket of it. When the leaves were washed and air-dried on the counter, I pulled them from the stems. The aroma of basil permeated the entire house. It is a welcome time.

The kitchen produces fresh pasta sauce when basil comes in. When I use fresh, home grown tomatoes and garlic, fresh basil makes pasta sauce that has me stopping to take note. It is that good!

Most of my basil goes into pesto. I’m still using last year’s production and the new vintage will keep in the freezer until winter. I experimented with kale pesto, mustard greens pesto, and others. It is a local tradition to make pesto with garlic mustard leaves after removing them in a futile attempt to control its invasive growth. It tastes good, yet it is not the same. I am a basil boy when it comes to pesto.

A few times each season I’ll make a cheese pizza with fresh basil leaves thrown on top after baking. In season, basil is a mainstay of our Iowa vegetarian kitchen.

Basil does not keep long, on the counter, in water, or in the refrigerator. I tried freezing the leaves on a baking sheet, although I find myself using dried basil leaves instead of frozen fresh. I put a batch or two of basil leaves in the dehydrator and let them air dry. It provides most of what we need until next year’s crop.

A kitchen is not as alive as it is during August when basil, tomatoes, garlic and onions are all in. It is a time gardeners and chefs await all year.

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