Backyard Gardening Excitement

Summer tomatoes are almost here! The plants in the garden have green tomatoes and lots of blooms. We are hoping to get our first tomato in a couple of weeks, as long as the hot weather continues. It has been really dry, so I have had to water them once or twice a week. Last year we had really wet weather in the spring, followed by bone dry, lung-searing hot weather for the summer. Between the weather and the squirrels, we got…wait for it…one tomato last year. I am determined we will get more this year.

The basil is growing like gangbusters and we have used it a few times on pizza. The plants are big enough now that I am ready to pick enough leaves to make our first batch of pesto. I am often tempted to make a big batch of pesto, but part of the reason for having our own plants is to make small batches so we can have garden fresh pesto whenever we want. While homemade pesto from the freezer is good, there is nothing better than having really fresh pesto, made from leaves that were growing in the sun just hours or minutes before dinner.

Whether you have a garden, a basil plant in a pot, or get your basil from the store or a farmers’ market, make your own pesto at least once. It is easy and you can’t beat the bright green color. We like it on pasta, in pizza and spaghetti sauce and as a spread for garlic bread. It is also good on fish or chicken. Post in the comments and share how you like to eat pesto.

Basil Pesto
From The Cook’s Life
Makes about 1 cup, easy to double

These amounts are approximate, and customizable – reduce the garlic, use different nuts or leave them out, use more cheese, or less, adjust the olive oil amounts to your tastes.

3 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
3 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup sliced almonds or pecan halves (pine nuts are traditional, but expensive)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Black pepper
Olive oil for storing

Pulse basil in a food processor until finely chopped.

Add garlic, nuts and cheese and pulse until finely chopped. Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil and pulse again.

Continue to add olive oil to make a paste, but not so much that you have puddles of oil in the bottom of the food processor.

Use on pizza, in pasta or as a dip. Store in the fridge in a closed container. Smooth the top surface and drizzle with a little olive oil. Press a piece of plastic wrap gently over the surface before closing the container to help seal out air and maintain the bright green color. Keeps about 1 week in the fridge.

For longer storage you can easily freeze pesto. Line a plate or pan with waxed or parchment paper. Put dollops of pesto on the paper and flatten into disks with the back of a spoon or your finger. Freeze uncovered for a couple of hours or until fully frozen. Peel off the paper and place in a plastic zip-top bag or container and return to freezer.

Download the recipe here.


8 thoughts on “Backyard Gardening Excitement

    • We are quite a bit south of you here in Missouri. You are in Massachusetts, right? Our goal is usually July 4th for tomatoes. We might beat that this year. We were really warm early, but then had several cold spells that pushed things back to normal – at least for those of us who got things in late. Sorry you are cold again!

  1. I tried pesto for the first time several years back. I wasn’t a fan and haven’t tried it since. But, my taste buds have been changing so I bought a bunch of Basil the other day and planned on giving it another try. I grew some Heirloom Lollipop Cherry Tomatoes (a yellow variety) last year that were so sweet I ate them like candy and found some yellow cherries at the produce market that looked similar and brought them home with the basil. I tasted them but they are very acidic and now I’m hesitating on making the pesto. I don’t want their acidity to skew my results and how I feel about the pesto. Do you think I could add a little sugar or something to cut the acidity?

    • Traditionally pesto is just basil, garlic, olive oil and maybe cheese. It doesn’t usually have tomatoes in it. Do you have a recipe that has tomatoes in it? As an aside – you really have to like the taste of fresh basil to like pesto. And you don’t need a lot of it when you are cooking, since it is so strong. I have used too much before and made an almost inedible pasta because the basil flavor was too strong.

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