No Basil Left Behind


Proudly cradling the basil harvested from my community garden plot. Varieties include: ‘African Blue’, ‘Purple Ruffles’, ‘Sweet Basil’, ‘Genovese’, ‘Columnar’, ‘Spicy Globe’, ‘Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil’, ‘Dark Opal’, and ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ (a variegated variety).

I reluctantly harvested the remaining basil plants from my community garden plot last weekend. With the temperatures dipping low it was time to take the plunge or risk losing all that lovely fresh basil to the frost. I am yet to harvest the remaining plants growing in containers on my rooftop deck but we are enjoying nipping out for fresh leaves to put on sandwiches and in salads so late into the fall season. Really with such a mild fall I am shocked that we have been able to hold out for so long. Basil is notorious for hating cold, wet weather and has never made it this far into the Fall (in my memory) before turning black and flopping over in defeat.

Between last weekend’s mad pesto/pisto making operation, and the basil I have been drying in bunches since mid-summer, I’d say we’re pretty well stocked until the first plants are ready to be pinched back next summer. I think this may be the first time that I’ve been able to look into the freezer and say with a sense of authority that the bounty is good.

The following is a very short clip revealing how frugal I can be about the basil. What can I say, each leaf is like a tiny nugget of gold!

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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7 thoughts on “No Basil Left Behind

  1. I took advantage of yesterday’s lovely dry weather and harvested racemes full of mature seeds off the basil plants. Some of these seed spikes had reached heights of over a foot. If you’ve never seen fully blooming Thai Siam basil, it’s worth letting it go for the beautiful flower clusters. They’re not on a spike like other basils, more of a round ball of flowers. I put the racemes in labelled large yogurt containers to fully dry downstairs. I’ll have to take a picture of it so you can see the madness.

    I’m still on the hunt for a safe method of canning pesto as having a freezer full of the stuff isn’t always practical, especially when I want to give gifts.

    This year, I decided to really expand the basil varieties in the garden and I’ve been pretty pleased overall with my experiments. Basil jelly is a very tasty and beautiful idea for all those wonderful aromatic varieties like Cinnamon, Anise, and Blue Spice. I took several cups of Dark Opal yesterday for this and I can’t wait to see what lovely colour it produces.

  2. Wow – that is very inspiring as I head into spring.(NZ)

    Right now my basil ‘crop’ is tiny seedlings on the spare room windowsill.

  3. I have a small but bountiful herb garden. Slowly, things have been sacrificed for the remainder of the garden, but I’m not sure how long to leave things like sage, oregano and lemon grass–they keep on keepin’ on, and in California (we live in Oakland), winter isn’t really a threat.

    Can anyone advise me on whether I should allow the herbs to keep growing, or should I harvest them and let the garden soil rejuvenate?

  4. Kelly: Sage, oregano, and lemon grass are all perennial herbs — keep them in the garden permanently. It’s good to have perennials in the garden to hold the soil and prevent erosion. Plus you’ll keep reaping the bounty as they grow larger.

    Basil is very cold sensitive and grows as a perennial in cold climates which is why it is pulled out and harvested in its entirety.

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