The mighty green leaves of this warm-weather herb burst with flavor and add vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron into your diet. Just brushing against a basil plant to release its fragrance can make you feel like you’re walking through a Tuscan garden.
Types: sweet basil, purple basil, lemon basil, and Thai basil
Growing Tips: Basil, a member of the mint family, grows really well in warm, moist summer soil, but you can generally keep your herb happy year-round here in Austin, Texas, with some cold weather precautions. Your raised garden bed is the perfect place to give basil the well-draining soil it prefers. Basil thrives when planted near tomato plants (just as it tastes extra good paired with tomato in a Caprese salad).
Pinch off the top sets of leaves as soon as your plant reaches six inches in height to prevent early blooming. (You don’t want your plant to go to seed.)
Harvesting: Prune your basil leaves regularly to encourage bushier growth. Avoid pulling off the biggest leaves (the ones on the bottom branches) from your plant; instead, focus on the top of the plant with the goal of creating two new branches from one. Look for two small leaves growing exactly opposite from each other. Use clean scissors or shears to cut just above this leaf set.
Use your fingers to pinch off flowers before they bloom.
Storing: Dry or freeze your leaves. Or make pesto! Which brings us to...
Easy Pesto Recipe
I add this pesto to pasta and bread and even use it as the sauce for homemade pizzas. Almonds are a cheaper alternative to the classic ingredient pine nuts.
2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (alternative: Pecorino cheese)
¼ cup crushed almonds (option: lightly toast almonds before crushing)
¼ cup olive oil; add more as needed
2 cloves of peeled garlic
Dash of salt and pepper
Optional: splash of lemon juice
Combine basil, cheese, almonds, olive oil, and garlic. While you can use a blender or a food processor, you’ll get better flavor using a good ol’ mortar and pestle. Pesto, after all, means pounded in Italian.
Add in more olive oil as needed to make pesto thick and smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice or more cheese---whatever your taste buds fancy!
If you want to make a higher yield or have a more subtle flavor, you can supplement this recipe with spinach leaves or Swiss Chard leaves.
Refrigerate any leftovers.
If you're ready to grow your own basil instead of buying those plastic-wrapped herbs from the grocery story, CLICK HERE TO GROW WITH US. You can be harvesting your own leaves in no time!