Here at Makeitveg, the weekends have been busy canning and preserving as much summer bounty as possible. The downside is the lack of free time,but the effort is well worth it when I know this Winter the cupboards and freezers will be full of fresh organic meals.
Just outside of Denver we have a small pick your own farm, sort of a hidden gem. I saw on their website that basil was ready for the picking and instantly knew I had to go get some. I have several small plants in my own backyard garden but never enough to make a large batch of anything.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quaintness of the farm and all the free range chickens and roosters seemingly ushering people around. The basil was $10/pound. They give you a basket and pair of scissors and point in the direction of the plants. Herbs by the pound is pretty awesome because you get a lot for your money.
It certainly didn't take long to fill a shopping basket. For varieties they had the standard pesto basil, purple basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil, and Thai basil. I mostly got the standard and then filled a couple pint containers with cinnamon and purple.
I left paying $11 for a little over a pound of basil. I can only hope that the scent lingers in my car forever because the ride home smelled so good! I am planning on berry picking soon at the same place and may end up getting more because there are so many ways to preserve it.
Probably the most obvious is pesto and that is exactly what I did with 90% of it. It's just so easy to make in a short amount of time, plus it freezes really well. Here is a link to a Spinach basil that works great with basil to make a more traditional recipe. Since pine nuts can be expensive and hard to find I prefer to use toasted sunflower seeds and generally don't include Parmesan in my pesto. (You can always add it later if you want). This makes a nice Vegan base that is great on veggies or pasta, or even as a condiment. With the pound of basil I made and froze several 2 oz. servings which ended up costing about $2.50 per serving, much better than any pesto from the store.
Another really useful way to preserve basil is to freeze it in ready to use servings as a fresh herb. This is quite easy to do; just chop and add to an ice cube tray. Add enough water to cover and freeze. Store the herb cubes in a plastic bag. This is handy for when you just need to add some fresh herbs to any dish and the minimal amount of water won't dilute your recipe. And I know that a cube contains about 2 TBSP of basil so no measuring is needed.
Finally there is always drying in a dehydrator for dried herbs. Any extra herbs from my own garden generally ends up here and I'm always happy when I don't need to buy dried herbs from the store.
I couldn't be more thrilled to find such a great resource for fresh basil here in Colorado and in an amount that I definitely couldn't grown on my own. Not to mention there is a special feeling you get when you support a small family owned local farm. I can't wait to go back and visit the chickens and roosters again!