Growing herbs is a total foodie win, not only for freshness’ sake but also because you can take just the amount you need without forking over four dollars for a wan little plastic-encased sprig from the grocery store. Plus, the herb will usually replenish itself by the next time you need it.
But some herbs will only last so long. Basil is quick to bolt in the DC heat, and although pinching off the bolting head can prolong the life of the plant somewhat, there comes a point when the plant has simply decided it’s time to go to seed. At this point, the leaves become bitter, with an almost licorice-y overtone. My basil plants were rapidly approaching this stage, so I ruthlessly severed them at their bases and brough a whole mess of basil home for processing into pesto.
I combined the basil with five cloves of garlic, several tablespoons of olive oil, and a healthy handful of toasted pine nuts in my mini food processor. If I were using the pesto right away, I would have added grated parmesan at the end, but this pesto was bound for the freezer for later use, and it’s best not to freeze cheese. I spooned the pesto into an ice cube tray so that it’ll be easier to defrost appropriate portions.
With quick-bolting annual herbs like basil and cilantro, I think it’s best not to get too precious about individual plants. Don’t try to make a single basil plant last all summer, and instead try succession planting. I’ve already got several new basil seedlings out in my garden to replace the plants I just harvested. This way I’ll never have to settle for bitter basil. Any excess will just be made into freezer pesto, giving me access to the taste of summer all year round.