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Walnut Basil Pesto with a Twist – Garden To Table Cooking
One of my top three herb favorites for the garden and kitchen is basil. This fresh summer herb is a standout performer whether grown in a kitchen garden, herb bed or container garden. And with more than 50 types to choose from, there’s a variety to suit nearly every purpose and every taste.
Of the 25 varieties I’ve grown, I have a handful of favorites that I always rely on: Genovese or Sweet basil for cooking and fresh use; Thai basil for stir-fries and curries; Cinnamon basil for fruit salads, herbal teas and baked goods; Lemon basil for fish, chicken, vegetables, salads and desserts; and Purple basil for herbal vinegar. K-Mart is right on track as I picked up four of my favorites from my local store: Lemon, Thai, Cinnamon, and Sweet basil.
While this herb is easy to grow, there are four essentials for ensuring bountiful harvests.
- Plant in a sunny location after all frost danger has passed and night temperatures remain above 50 degrees.
- For quality production, grow in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. I work in compost or aged manure prior to planting, and feed with manure tea every few weeks, or a mid-summer addition of compost or high-nitrogen organic fertilizer.
- Keep the soil consistently moist for big, lush leaves. Mulching around plants will keep moisture levels more even.
- Harvest leaves frequently for a bushier and more productive plant. Start by pinching the tip clusters when plants reach 6 to 8 inches tall. Cut plants back by two-thirds when they reach 12 to 18 inches tall. This will delay flowering and keep the harvests coming.
The true essence of basil is best when used fresh. Here are a few tips to keep the harvest fresh in the kitchen.
- Create a basil bouquet by storing stems with leaves in a glass of water on the kitchen counter. Change the water daily; the leaves will remain fresh for up to 10 days.
- Avoid storing fresh basil in the refrigerator as cold temperatures cause the leaves to blacken.
- Freeze the excess in ice cube trays as a puree with water, broth or olive oil. Once frozen, you can store your frozen basil cubes in a freezer bag.
- Combine classic ingredients like pine nuts, fresh basil leaves, olive oil, fresh garlic, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and salt. Or give it a twist with the following recipe.
1 cup fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup fresh lemon basil leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves (do not pack)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 to 3 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste and combine the first six ingredients in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and continue to process to a fine paste, season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with cooked pasta; store unused portions in the refrigerator. Make alot of pesto and have fun! – Kris Wetherbee
Read Kris’ Recent Blogs & Guides
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Kmart Garden Tool(s)
- Roseburg, OR
The only experience I've ever had cooking with basil came from a jar. You've inspired me to try growing basil for myself. Can't wait to try this recipe -- thanks!
Sounds so delicious! I'm planning to try the recipe this week.
- Oakland, OR
In response to laurelS
What's great about this pesto is that you can use it in so many ways: as a topping for baked potatoes, steak, hamburgers or chicken; tossed with pasta, pasta salads, potato salad or rice; served with green beans, roasted eggplant or zucchini--so many ways!