This week’s share will include a potted basil plant, ready to harvest for immediate use, and to plant for future use all summer. We offer the following guidelines for its use. First of all, it will need to be cut back. The best way to do this is to pinch the tops above where you see a “V” of new leaves. When you pick above the “V”, it will enable the new leaves to grow and become new tops to pinch. If we were to pick too far down, or if just the leaves are taken, they will not continue to grow for a long harvest. When you have finished picking from a young plant, take a look back at the area you’ve picked–it should look like you haven’t been there. You are now ready to repot the plant in a larger pot. The leaves from the part you cut off can be used immediately in your salads or spaghetti sauce. Or wrap the cutoff section in a damp paper towel and place in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator. Use within a couple of days.
Basil is an annual herb which is believed to have originated in India. It is most commonly used in pesto, tomato sauces and salad dressings. Before using, remove leaves from the stems and wash gently to remove any garden grit. Basil is a delicious addition when chopped into your favorite soups or stews. Try topping slices of tomato with fresh basil leaves, olive oil, and a little salt and pepper. Also, try adding to egg or cheese dishes, sautes, stir-fries, dips and sauces. It’s delicious layered in a sandwich with slices of garlic, tomatoes and cheese.
Basil leaves can be frozen. Blanching them first helps capture their fresh flavor. Drop into boiling water for several seconds, then with a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to a bowl of ice water to chill for several seconds more. Blot dry with paper towels. Spread a single layer of the blanched basil leaves on a wax paper-lined baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic and freeze until solid, about 1 hour. Transfer to plastic storage bags. No need to thaw before using. And if you are using your basil to make pesto, remember pesto also freezes very well. A suggestion is to freeze it in ice cube trays. When frozen solid, pop out pesto cubes, bag in a zip-lock bag, and place back in the freezer. Take out only as many cubes as you need at a time.