Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Harvesting Basil

My kitchen is filled with the scent of fresh sweet basil. I'm harvesting my plants, freezing the leaves so we can enjoy the taste of summer during winter's cold season. We dry some of the leaves, but most of them are frozen because we like to use the fresh leaves in pesto, on pizza, in sauces and even in our lemon basil martinis. 

There is not much happening in my garden right now, and my blog has been neglected as a result. The summer garden is fading and it is still too hot in my Los Angeles area garden to begin fall planting. It is the time of year I turn to indoor projects because gardening when the temps are above 105 degrees is just not my idea of a good time. I have been busy redecorating my breakfast room. The painting is done, now I'm sewing pillows and curtains. I'll post some pictures once it is completed. 

In the next couple of weeks I will finish pulling out the summer veggies and prepare the beds for winter crops. The basil and herbs are still going strong, the one bright spot left in my garden. I decided to leave one basil plant to see how long it will continue to produce into the fall/winter. The rest I'm harvesting. This is a time consuming process. Here's the method I use to try to make it as easy as possible.

Cut the large stalks close to the ground.
Holding the stalk, I turn it upside down and shake it to remove some of the debris that collects in the leaves.
Next I cut off the seed stems.
Read tips on harvesting sweet basil seeds here
When you are finished removing the seed pods it looks like this. 
These stalks/leaves are then taken into the kitchen to be washed and dried. Because we are in a drought in California, I try my best to conserve water. I collected the rinse water in a bucket, then used it to water my rosemary bush. 

I find that it is easiest to keep the leaves on the stems when washing them. After cutting the stems off of the larger stalks, they were placed under water and swished around.
Then I rinse the leaves under the spray water. 
Then I turn the stems upside down to wash the under side of the leaves, scrubbing the leaves between my fingers when needed.
The stems/leaves are then dried on towels. At this point the smell is almost overwhelming in my kitchen.
Once the water has evaporated I remove the leaves by stripping them from top to bottom.

I put one cup of leaves into a snack sized ziplock baggie and remove the air. 
The baggies are labeled using a permanent marker, and into the freezer they go. One plant produced 6 cups of leaves. 
One cup we left to dry completely to be used as a dried herb. There are 3 more plants left to harvest and I'm considering processing them in the food processor and freezing them in ice cube trays. 

Do you have any other suggestions for harvesting basil? 

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