Pesto makes everything better. Whether it is some bread with a dip of pesto on the side, some pasta that just needs a light splash of the green goddess, or a topping for your favorite pizza, pesto is incredible. Buying pesto in the store can be expensive though especially when you eat huge amounts of it in one sitting, as I do. I always buy a small jar of pesto thinking that I will make it last for weeks. Yet it only lasts a couple of meals, I just can’t get enough of that wonderful stuff. I was close to going broke from my pesto addiction until I started to make my own! Making your own pesto is super easy. All that is required is basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, and olive oil. Most of those ingredients can be easily found but the key to great pesto is fresh basil. The best way to ensure you have the freshest basil is to grow it yourself. In this article, I will tell you how.
Basil is a sensitive plant so it does require some care. You can grow it outside in your garden or inside in a pot but you should know that it doesn’t like the cold, so choose wisely based on your climate.
When I first started growing my own basil I went for the indoor option. Growing a basil plant in a small pot just made it easy for me to look after and keep an eye on in those early days. Depending on the type of basil plant you are looking to grow (yes there are varieties of basil plant) will depend on what pot size you need to use.
If you choose to grow the Lettuce Leaf variety you will need to have a pot that allows about 1.5 feet total space for the plant (so half that on either side). If you grow something with a smaller leaf, for example, a Spicy Globe then one foot on either side is ample space. The same applies if you are growing these plants outside. Ensure they have the space to thrive.
After some experimentation, my preferred approach is to actually put the basil plants in small pots and plant them with the pots outside in the garden. Then when the weather starts to turn cold I take the full plant and the small container and plant them inside instead. This gives them a great start as they get lots of sunlight but you can rescue them before the frost bites.
Once your basil plant is growing, make sure you are using the leaves the moment they are ready. This will help to avoid crowding in the plant. I have found the best approach is to work on your basil straight away and then freeze it. To do this simply wash the leaves and puree them straight away. This puree is perfect for making pesto later or soups and sauces. You may want to keep some fresh basil as a garnish or ingredient but to be honest when I need this I always just pop over to my plant and find what I need.
If you are trying to think of uses for your basil other than pesto, there are plenty. Basil traditionally works well with anything that contains tomato, capsicum, or eggplant. It goes splendidly in meat dishes too as a great pairing of lemon, parsley, chives, and garlic. Basil is also great in salads and has been used for centuries as part of Asian cuisine. If you are making a Thai green curry or a Vietnamese pho, basil is your friend. So what are you waiting for?