Some summers, I can hardly get enough basil to grow to make a pot of spaghetti. Other summers, the basil is as over-plentiful as zucchini. Usually, it’s the summer when it’s so abundant that I have the least time or focus to deal with the bounty. And then next thing you know, the basil is out of control and flowering left and right.
I’m having one of those summers. Plus, my basil is in a large boxed bed covered with chicken wire. I need a better plan to keep the chickens out of it next year because this made it a little difficult to get to the herbs.
I will be making the rest of my many excuses available soon in a downloadable pdf. (JUST KIDDING.)
But! On the bright side, there is no such thing as too much basil, and it’s never too late. Technically, basil should be harvested before it blooms, but I’ve not found that basil, once flowered, deteriorates dramatically in flavor. I use basil that has flowered quite often because I’m just not on top of pinching off the blooms. Even if you don’t want to use post-bloom basil in cooking, it’s still quite fragrant and has many other uses.
If you’re like me and you’ve got a ton of basil this year (when nothing else did that great in the garden!), here are some of the ways I’ve come up with to make use of one of this summer’s (few) garden success stories.
My favorite way to use over-plentiful basil is to cut it and bring it inside. Basil is gorgeous in a vase (especially purple basil) and gives off a wonderful fragrance. Supposedly, basil deters flies, and I believe this works because we were having flies in the house quite a bit this summer–until I started bringing in basil.
Other non-culinary uses (if you don’t like to use your basil after it’s flowered): You can use whole dried basil leaves in potpourri mixes (dry or simmering), and you can also crumble dried basil into homemade soap recipes. Add dried basil to your homemade fire starters for a great fragrance coming out of your wood stove. You can also add basil to homemade facial scrubs or make an easy facial tonic by steeping a few teaspoons of basil in a cup of boiling water; cool and apply with a cotton ball. Or drop a few basil leaves in the bath. Basil is soothing for irritated skin and can be incorporated into many of your homemade beauty recipes.
If you’re like me and you’re not opposed to using your basil after it’s flowered for food purposes, the quickest way to preserve an abundance of basil is to chop it up and freeze it with water in ice cube trays. (Easy to take out later to add to recipes–just toss the basil cube into the pot.) I also dry a lot of basil in the dehydrator.
Meanwhile, think outside the box on extra ways to use basil in cooking. Make basil butter, or basil tea. (Make basil tea the same way you would make any herbal tea, such as mint, by steeping then straining the basil leaves. Basil is good for stomach aches and stress.) You can also add basil to jams, making peach-basil jam, or blackberry-basil jam, and so on. Basil jelly is actually a very good condiment with meat (the same way you would use mint jelly).
See? It’s impossible to have too much basil. Bring it inside and do something with it! (That’s what I’m doing this weekend. Have you got more ideas? Let me hear ’em!)