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Late Season Basil Harvesting Tips & Recipe

October 08, 2012
Late Season Basil

Late Summer/Early Autumn Basil has much slower growth. Instead of losing the last of your crop to a freeze or fall leaf drop, harvest the plant and preserve it now!


Basil plants will decline rapidly as shorter days and cooler nights of fall arrive. Before the leaves turn yellow at the base (fall leaf drop on the way) or black on the edges (from frosty chills), be sure you know how to harvest basil and preserve it for winter. It’s easy!

Harvesting basil by pinching out the tips to encourage new growth is ideal during the spring and summer — while the plants are putting on new growth at a rapid pace. In fall, however, be brutal, and cut down the remaining plant. In cold climates, this warm season annual just won’t survive the chill.

Once you have cut down the entire plant, compost the stems, any seedy tips and any chewed, yellowed or blackened leaves. Wash the bright green leaves, spin them to remove most of the water and put them aside for winter.

Freshly Washed Basil Leaves

Freshly washed & spun basil leaves ready to make into pesto or freeze as is for delicious winter meals that bring back the taste of summer fast!

To preserve your basil harvest, certainly you can dry the leaves. However, to really get the maximum flavor from your crop, consider turning the leaves into a pesto or simple pack the washed leaves into a freezer bag. In winter when you make a marinara, just grab a fistful of those frozen leaves and crumble them into your sauce. Don’t defrost them first or you’ll have a goopy mess to work with.

Frozen basil leaves won’t defrost and hold the gorgeous green color of fresh basil, so it is best used in cooked meals that hide the color change. Despite the loss of pretty green, that frozen flavor will bring back the taste of summer fast.

Want to make pesto? With our last harvest, I put together this cheese-free version that resulted in about 3, 1 cup servings that I froze to enjoy later.

Cheese-Free Basil PestoPrint Print

makes about 3, 1 cup servings

Ingredients:

3/4 cup pine nuts

2-3 cups freshly washed basil leaves

2-3 cloves garlic

1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

pepper

salt

Directions:

Toast about 3/4 cup pine nuts. Set aside and allow to cool.

Pack a food processor with about 2-3 cups of fresh, clean basil leaves. Add in 2-3 cloves of fresh, peeled garlic. Add a grind of pepper and a pinch of salt. Pulse until chopped and mixed.

Add in cooled pine nuts (if they’re warm, the basil will turn dark). Pulse until all is well chopped and mixed. Scrape down sides as needed.

While processor is running, slowly pour in 1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, scraping down sides as needed. (Add the smaller amount and check for your preferred texture before adding in more.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop large globs of the pesto onto the parchment sheet in about 3/4-1 cup serving sizes. (Or in globs that match the approximate amount you prefer to use in your recipes.)

Insert sheet into freezer. Allow to freeze solid.

Remove sheet from freezer and vacuum seal each frozen glob. Return labelled packages (name and date) to freezer to use through the winter.

 

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