The forecast says possible frost in Minnesota this week. So when I got home from work tonight, after dinner, I harvested my basil.
My dilemma is that I always miscalculate how much basil to use during the growing season. I’m afraid that if I cut too much too early, I won’t have any left at the end of the season. Then I get to the first frost forecast and lament that I’ve still got so much in the garden, and feel like I should have used more earlier in the summer.
One year, I decided to chance it. I left my basil in the garden despite the forecast of ‘possible’ frost. Well, it froze, and I wasn’t able to salvage very much of my crop. So now my strategy is this. I cut the stems with large deep green leaves, but leave the lower stems. They usually have some new sprouts. If the forecast is wrong and it doesn’t freeze, I can harvest some late-yield basil for use until the killing freeze comes.
So, what do I do with the basil that I harvest? Freeze it, of course. I used to make pesto and freeze it. But that sort of limits my options for using throughout the winter. So I clean and mince the leaves and freeze them. Then, I just take out a few tablespoons, or a half cup, whatever I need during the winter.
One of the things we use frozen basil for is pizza. We make a homemade crust. Then my wife takes a couple tablespoons of frozen basil, thaws it and mixes it with a good olive oil and spreads it on the pizza crust before putting on the toppings and cheese. It’s sort of a modified pesto, but she doesn’t usually mix garlic or parmesan into the sauce. I also use the frozen basil in pasta sauce, risotto, and soup.
I also strip off the basil blossoms that shoot out the top of the plant. (That’s what’s in the bowl in the photo.) I freeze them and use them in homemade vegetable broth or turkey broth. The basil blossoms add a nice, fragrant characteristic to the broth.
One disadvantage of freezing the basil is that it tends to lose it’s intense, green color.That’s ok for most cooking uses. But it’s not ideal for pesto, which I want to be almost iridescent green.
I read somewhere that basil is related to catnip. If that’s true, I can certainly see why cats like catnip. I usually get a euphoric, woozy feeling while chopping cups of fresh basil leaves.