Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Growing and Freezing Basil

First let me just say that I am NOT a master gardener... but I have learned a few things over the years, and that is all I am sharing with you today-- some tips that work for me.  So with that being said- here are some things that have helped me when it comes to growing Basil.
I LOVE to use basil in my cooking, nothing tastes better than fresh basil.  I went out to the garden a few nights ago, and one of my plants was going crazy.  This is what it looked like--- I will show you in these pictures how to prune a Basil plant so that it continues to produce for you the whole summer.
I know it is hard to use that much basil everyday.. but you want to prune the plant because then it will keep producing more. (for every leaf you cut- 2 more will grow)  So I am also going to show you how to freeze it so that you can use it all year.

you don't want to let flowers grow on the plant, because then the flavor isn't as strong- so clip them off before they bloom.

the plants have a lot of stems, that look like this- you want to always keep at least 2-3 leaves on each stem.  Just grab a leaf and cut it off- continue doing this on the whole plant

see this is where I had cut a leaf off before and now you can see that there are 2 growing back.  By pruning  you will cause the plant to bush out instead of growing straight up.

and this is a picture of the same plant after I had pruned it back... I could still cut a few more off, but I like to keep some on there so I can cut fresh off to use in between cuttings.  I wish I knew how to post the first picture & this one side by side so that you can see the difference- sorry you're going to have to just scroll up to see the before and after effect.
 After you have pruned the plant, wash the leaves and cut the stems off of them- you can see I haven't done that yet in this picture, the stems are still quite long.    Once you have done that you can either use them now or put a few in a container in the fridge to use in the next few days.   
If you want to freeze the basil, this is the best way I have found to do it.  I know there are a few different ways to freeze basil, this way just works for me.

First take 20 leaves ( I figure lrg. leaves, so if there are a few smaller ones count 2 as 1 leaf)  I have always done 20 leaves because that's the amount I use for my Tomatoe Basil Soup and it's a good amount to add to sauces and things when your're cooking.  Put the basil leaves into your food processor and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, chop it up
then scoop it into a snack size baggie-- it fits perfect!  I have sealed them in my food saver bags before, but I couldn't tell a difference - so now I just use the baggies, try to squeeze out as much air as you can.

Then I put the bags of basil into one of these plastic containers in the freezer- they are the ones you can get for $ 1.00 at the dollar store or walmart.  And yes it looks like I need to defrost the freezer-- it's the job I dislike the most, so it's not happening today!!  :)   Put a label on you boxes so you know what is in each one.

I wanted to show you how beautiful it looks after being in the freezer for a year.... the one on the top is a bag from last year, and the one on the bottom is the one I did today.   The olive oil helps it keep it's vibrant green color -- You can make the best basil pesto ever!!  I hope this has been helpful, and if you've never tried to freeze herbs I hope you will give it a shot!!  You'll be surprised how easy it is.