The Leaves of Summer

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We have narrowed down our successful summer gardening choices to tomatoes and basil. Eggplants were bitter, zucchini took up too much room and peppers were hit and miss. And we had to fight the critters to harvest any of those. We have some success with other crops in the spring and fall, but tomatoes and basil are it for us for the summer.

In case you aren’t an herb gardener, basil likes to be used. After you cut off stems, it sends out new shoots around the cut edges, making the plant bushier and more prolific. I have made a few batches of pesto this summer, and used a few leaves here and there as I needed them.

I haven’t used much basil over the past few weeks, so the plants were getting out of control. I decided to do one big harvest and build up my freezer basil stash. I took my kitchen shears out to the garden and started cutting bunches of basil, throwing them behind me into a pile. When it was time to haul it all to the house it took two trips to get it all.

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After it took me almost half an hour to wash and de-stem the basil, I realized I needed to pick the quickest preserving method possible. I really wanted a way to preserve the fresh basil flavor for the winter. I didn’t need to make pesto for that, so I decided to chop all the basil in the food processor with a little olive oil.

I dolloped the bright green, concentrated basil puree onto parchment lined cookie sheets and froze it until solid. Then I peeled off the frozen basil patties and tossed them in a ziplock bag to keep for the winter.

Now I have ready-to-use basil pucks ready to throw into pasta sauces and soups. Or I can thaw one or two to spread on pizza dough or mix with mayonnaise to add a little zip to sandwiches.

A few more days and the basil will have enough new shoots for another harvest. I think I’ll go check on it again.

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8 thoughts on “The Leaves of Summer

  1. Honestly, I’m most impressed that a cookie sheet fits into your freezer. I have little metal trays that fit into 2 of my freezers, but a cookie sheet–no way. Well, it would fit in but the door would not close, and that’s kinda defeating the point of the freezer.
    Sarah-lovely post title and photos. I whacked off a bunch of basil yesterday and set vases of it out at the community ice cream social to try and give it away. Some got taken, but I think the rest will need to become pucks or pesto today because it’s ready even if I’m not.
    Thanks for the puck idea!

    • I have a chest freezer, though it is one of the smaller ones. A half sheet pan just fits next to the basket that sits on the top of one side. The only downside to a chest freezer is the required digging to find things. I always plan to keep it more organized – which lasts until I need something from the bottom.

      Yes, make the pucks. Faster and less clean-up than using ice cube trays!

  2. that’s a great idea! my two most successful things in the garden this year were tomatoes and basil also: i get mass quantities of basil especially, and look for ways to use it up. pestos are my go-to, but simply processing it in olive oil is a wonderful alternative (and so much cheaper than pesto, because no nuts).

    • Thanks, Shannon! Nuts are so expensive! And I find I use a lot of my pesto in tomato sauce, where I don’t really need the nuts or the cheese. I have made a few batches with just basil, garlic and olive oil too. Just mark the bags! All the pucks look that same after a few months in the freezer. 🙂

  3. What an inventive way to store pesto! I’m so tickled by the idea of “pesto pucks.” (And it has such a funny ring to it.) Thanks for sharing and I love the rest of your blog!

    • Thanks! I used to use ice cube trays, but I hated washing them out after freezing pesto in them. And the pucks thaw so much faster than the cubes. I can just throw a couple in bubbling tomato sauce or give them a few seconds on low power in the micro and they are ready to go.

  4. I wish I could grow basil! I have tried and tried and it just dwindles away and dies on me. Love your idea of freezing it for use throughout the winter months. Next summer I’m going to trying growing it again and if I succeed… I’ll try your suggestion.

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