Grow Basil – Make Pesto! Simple Pesto Recipe Plus Tips on Growing Herbs in Your Window Sill
A strong flavored herb, basil has a rich flavor with a trace of mint and clove. It can be grown in a sunny window for various uses in tomato dishes and salads. It is the key ingredient in pesto sauce, the simple and delicious Italian pasta sauce.
If you've never considered yourself as having a green thumb before, growing fresh herbs is a terrific first step. They're also an important part of what Linda McCartney called a "living kitchen" in her vegetarian cookbook entitled, Home Cooking; Quick, Easy, And Economical Vegetarian Dishes for Today.
If you're going to grow one plant in your garden or on a sunny windowsill, your first choice should be an herb. Not only are they easy to grow once you know how, but they are useful in recipes with their full, rich flavors. Why should you bother, really, when you can buy dried herbs at the grocery store? Well, for one thing, you just can't distinguish between a pecticide-filled plant or veggie from one that doesn't have any. You cannot tell by looking or tasting. The benefits of organically growing your own herbs and veggies are simple:
- they're better for you with their higher vitamin count
- they're cheaper than buying the stores' higher-priced organic foods
- there are no chemical residues to worry over
To Grow Basil
Place basil in sunny location in well-drained soil. Water often but do allow soil to dry slightly between waterings. Fertilize approximately every 2-3 weeks. Pinch off the young leaves often for use in cooking and to encourage new growth. These plants are annuals so be prepared to buy new plants or seed each spring. Linda McCartney encouraged the use of several basil plants for one family's cooking needs per season.
Most herbs can be dried very easily. To dry your herbs, take several stems and bunch together. Put the ends together and wrap a rubber band around the ends. The rubber band is the best tie to use because it contracts as the herbs dry and reduce in size. Drying can take two to four weeks.
To Prepare for Use
After pinching the leaves off the plant, wash and dry leaves. Chop finely. Add toward the end of cooking time and use three times as much fresh leaves as you would the dried version of basil.
How to Make Pesto Sauce
- Chop 2 cups fresh basil leaves (to make 3/4 cups of sauce)
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan, Romano & Asiago blend grated cheese
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus 2 tablesp)
- 1/4 teasp coarse pepper
- Salt to taste
- Combine basil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese in blender.
- Coarsely chop ingredients for a few pulses, then dribble olive oil into blender running till the basil mixture becomes a puree.
- Remove pesto from the blender, stir in pepper and salt to taste.
Use Pesto Sauce on a variety of foods such as toasted bread, fish, poultry or the traditional Italian way–over pasta. And then pat yourself on the back now that you have grown an herb and created a meal with it. This is just the beginning. You can grow your own herbs and veggies in pots on a patio, windowsill, rooftop….you don't need a yard to make a difference in your family's health and food budget.
Start small and dream big.