The warm weather sees basil plants literally flourish. Regular water and the occasional feed with liquid fertiliser helps with this. Keeping the centres pinched out will also inhibit flowering and promote a bushier plant. Basil is a popular companion plant in the garden as well - planting it next to tomatoes and capsicum will improve their growth and helps repel some fruit fly and other pests.
Fresh leaves can be picked at any time and are great added to salads and dips. They can also be cooked with vegetables, especially tomatoes, to make sauces, curries, as well as pizza and pasta dishes. The leaves can also be used to flavour herb vinegars and oils.
With such a prolific growth rate it is also beneficial to harvest and store some of the leaves, for use at a later date, before the plant flowers and dies off. The leaves can be preserved in olive oil in the freezer or dried in the dehydrator and then stored in an airtight container.
My favourite storage method is to make BASIL PESTO - its so easy to do and very, very tasty.
Pesto has many uses - It can be :
- Used as a pasta sauce
- Spread over toasted Turkish bread
- As a dip, on its own, for crackers or chips
- Used as a sauce for steamed vegetables
- Added to soups and stews
Another recipe which uses basil, fresh or frozen is TOMATO BASIL SOUP from "The Prudent Homemaker Blog". This has quickly become a family favourite in my house - great for cold nights in Winter with some warm, freshly baked sourdough bread ........Yum