Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bountiful Basil

Big Basket o' Basil

Since we were due for our first big winter rainstorm this morning, I decided yesterday that I'd better harvest as much of my remaining sweet basil as I could before the heavy rains hit. I didn't want the heavy rains and wind to damage the leaves or slam the overly tall plants into the mud. One plant has already sort of uprooted itself due to being top heavy.

I have three basil plant clumps still growing nicely in my lower garden. One is much bigger than the others. Eventually I will pull them all out of the ground as the really cold weather comes in, but for now I will leave them to produce more leaves, even if at a slower pace than they did during summer.

The photo above shows the huge amount of basil that I harvested from just my one larger plant yesterday. The basket was crammed full of leaves and stems and was quite heavy. As I came in from my garden last evening just as it was getting dark outside, I wondered where I planned to place all of this basil that I just harvested while it dries. I couldn't hang it outside on the porch as I usually do during fair weather, because it would just get drenched with rain and blown away with the wind.

So I spread it all out on a clean sheet on top of my massage table. That table is 72 inches long by 30 inches wide and I completely covered it in basil sprigs:

Basil on my Massage Table

All that basil was pretty bushy and thick, creating some depth:

Basil~ relaxed & ready for a massage

I let the basil cuttings rest and relax overnight. Then today I created several bunches tied with twine to hang up to dry. Usually I hang them from my herb drying line on my porch, but in wet weather I must improvise:

Basil Drying Hanger ~ one of two

This window is near my woodstove that I use for heating the house in cold weather. A good location for drying herbs.

Well, it has rained all day here and is still storming as I type this. I can hear the wind blowing things around out there. More of the same is predicted for tomorrow. We can use the water, but I'd rather get it a little at a time instead of all at once like this. The ground is slippery with mud and there are many puddles out there that I must watch out for while working outside. Life in the mountains. Never boring.

How's the weather where you are today?

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket


CaliforniaGrammy said...

Beautiful and abundant basil! As you know I, too, love basil. I'm curious as to why you let the flowers grow rather than pinching them off so as to produce more leaves? Maybe it's because you're drying your basil, rather than using the fresh leaves? I've always thought that letting the plant flower tends to make the leaves bitter? Maybe I'm all wet. What's your theory?

Farmer Jen said...

Hi CA Grammy,
I usually do my best to get out to the garden and pinch off the flower stocks on my herbs, but this summer kept me so busy that I just didn't get out there often enough to do it. I did do it a few times, but time got away from me.

The flowers you see are because I just didn't take the time to pluck them off as they appeared. I did get at least two harvests from my plants earlier in the season with which I made pesto to fill my freezer. Those harvests pruned my plants nicely and encourage lavish leave growth. And also flower growth!

I haven't noticed any change in leaf taste due to the presence of flowers. Yes, I have heard the same thing you mention about a bitterness forming in the leaves after the plant flowers. My understanding is that this is because the plant's energy and nutrients are now going into the reproductive phase of flowers and seeds instead of into its stem and leaf growth. Still, I have never noticed any bitterness in my homegrown basil no matter whether flowers were present or not. (this is in contrast to the bitterness I find in my flowering salad greens)I dry the basil flower stalks along with the leaves and use them for seasoning too. They add a bit of a peppery flavor.

Of course, if the flower stalks have dried enough to produce seeds, I then try to collect them to plant seedlings next time.

frugalmom said...

Wow! Thats a lot of basil. I bet your massage room smelled so good. Theres nothing quite like the smell of fresh basil.

The weather here right now is very, very wet. And raining still. And wet. Did I mention it was wet? Luckily tho, we are above freezing! :)

Farmgirl_dk: said...

I've heard relaxed basil tastes much better than tense basil, so I'm glad to see you are massaging it. That will help significantly.
And, boy, I bet that room smelled GOOD! :-)

Love your cute pumpkins at the top - nice coloring.

Hardware Bob said...

Indeed that was a huge pile of Basil on the massage table.

I too have heard that bolting tends to cause leaf bitterness, but when I forget to nip the tops off, I just throw it all into the food processor anyway.

The resulting pesto is just as yummy as without the flowers. Could be all the dark olive oil, garlic, nuts, freshly ground pepper, and Parmesan cheese. You think.I love pesto on just about everything.

My basil harvest this year was bountiful too, my freezer is full up with little yogurt cups of pesto to get me through the Winter.

This year I experimented with some Greek Oregano in the recipe. It was my very first year growing the aromatic plant.

The combination of basil and oregano in pesto is absolutely heavenly and the scent is fabulous, try it. Tarragon works great too and is perfect when slathered on a big fat salmon fillet. Yummo.

Knit Witch said...

Yummy!! I have pulled up most of my basil and tied it upside down to dry in the shed.

Sounds like everyone is wet, wet, wet - just like us!!

Anonymous said...

How nice to get the chance to meet you this evening at the Farm Party Jen!

Re: Pesto - I have made many batches so far this summer, and have more to make if I can get in gear before the frost gets the last of the basil. If I don't plan on using it immediately I hold off adding the cheese and butter, and put it in ziplock baggies to freeze. I lay them flat until frozen and then stand up and store in the door where I can find them easier all winter. The baggies thaw quickly, then add the cheese and butter after thawing.

Re: our conversation about your cheese making - if you want company or help on your next attempt give me a call!! I'm in the book! Marianne Williams

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Frugalmom,
A lot of basil, yes. And there is more still growing outside.

Hi Danni,
You are funny. Yes, relaxed basil does taste much better than tense basil! Ha! Thanks for the photo compliment. Those were most of my pie pumpkin harvest this year.

Hi Bob,
You always have a big basil harvest. At least for the past few years. And you make a lot of pesto! Luckily for us, you share.

Hi Brittany,
I still have some basil growing outside that needs harvesting. Our wet weather of last week turned sunny and dry until today when we got a bit more rain.

Hi Marianne,
Thanks so much for reading my blog and for leaving a comment. Yes, it was great to meet you on our farm party hay ride last Saturday! I was so pleased to know that local folks read my blog. It's always nice to make new friends.

I freeze my basil pesto in small plastic containers such as recycled yogurt cups, and I just freeze the whole recipe, cheese and all. I use olive oil instead of butter in mine. When I am ready to use it, I thaw some in the microwave. I bet your freezer baggies take up less room in the freezer than my containers though.

Thanks for the offer of help or company with the cheese making. That is very nice of you. Actually, though, I enjoy the challenge of learning to do these new things on my own, where I can concentrate and sometimes screw up without anyone around to witness. It's sort of my "meditation" time. I do the same thing when cooking, baking or canning. It's soothing to me to spend that time by myself in my kitchen.

I did enjoy talking with you and will remember that your number is in the book. I am in there too. I am sure we will see each other around town now that we have met.