All That Basil


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!)

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on September 11, 2010  

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29 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 9-11

    Can’t wait to try the basil tea. Hard to believe, but there’s even more uses for basil. Basil, particularly purple basil, makes a fine basil/white wine vinegar. It turns a lovely shade of purple, looks great with a sprig of flower in bottle. Makes salads taste great, too. And, basil butter (basil, butter > food processor) tastes great and freezes well.

  2. 9-11

    My favorite summer bouquets are zinnias with basil. Beautiful colors and fragrance!

  3. 9-11

    I looooove basil…sadly, this was not a good year for mine. I live all year for the taste of homemade pesto. I think we’re going to the public market today though, so I may find a quantity of it there.
    Gardens are funny, we’ve been eating tomatoes since about the end of July & there’s still many huge green ones yet to ripen & the vines are still blooming. Usually my tomatoes or just the garden in general is not too productive. I do have a hive of bees this year though, so I’m thinking the garden success is due to them…love my bees!!

  4. 9-11

    That’s pretty, just sitting there in a vase!

    Tie it up and let hang in your kitchen to naturally dry…it’s pretty and you get the benefits of smelling.

    Oregano is what went crazy with me this year! And I can’t think of any excuse….but it just seemed like one day everything was looking good and the next it had taken over most of the herb bed!

    Build a walk-in garden next year, with a gate and everything. Basically like a chicken pen, but to keep them OUT! That way you can go in easily standing straight up.

  5. 9-11

    My favorite thing to do with basil is make pesto. And you can freeze pesto.

  6. 9-11

    Basil for flies!!!!! I’ll be growing ALOT of basil next year, the flies are out of control this year!! Thanks for the tip :)

  7. 9-11

    Make pesto!!! We love pesto!!! And, it’s so easy to make….and you can freeze it. I bought a few ice cube trays this summer…can’t believe I didn’t have any of those in the house…and I’m freezing it in the cubes. Mmmm, spinach and cheese ravioli with pesto is one of our favorites….love it on pizza too.

  8. 9-11

    I dry the basil and then put it in a small linen bag and hang it in my closet and also put it in my draws, it keeps flies and moths away and it smalls great.

  9. 9-11

    PESTO! One can never have too much pesto, and it freezes well.

  10. 9-11

    Wonderful, love basil! :yes: :yes: :yes: :yes: :yes:

  11. 9-11

    I planted five varieties this year and found the lemon basil to be just delicious. It’s great to add a sprig to a glass of ice water for just a light flavor. I’m turning most of my basil into pesto for the freezer. Just make sure to harvest before the first frost because it’s one of the first casualties of a light frost.

  12. 9-11

    Well, I want to know the trick to growing it in the ground. I have NEVEr been able to get it to grow in the ground. I do ok with it in a pot though. Basil is my favorite herb! As long as I have Basil, Rosemary and Garlic I’m good. Too bad my husband doesn’t like basil.

  13. 9-11

    Thanks for the great ideas. I have a bumper crop from four huge plants in big pots. I’ve been freezing pesto (without the cheese, I’ll add it when defrosting). It’s a bumper crop year! I have parsley and oregano coming out my ears as well. Parsley dries well but I’ve not had good luck drying oregano for some reason.

  14. 9-11

    Take some long stems of basil and strip the lower portion of leaves, put them in a glass or a glass jar with water and you will have a pretty bouqet for your kitchen window. There’s a bonus. They will root and you will have fresh basil for cooking all winter long. :snoopy:

  15. 9-11

    Oh Suzanne I am so jealous!! I love basil but this year, I wasn’t meant to have any! I had about a dozen seeds sprouting up…yippeee! Then, Mr. Bunny jumped up into my planter to munch on the lobelia. He squashed some and some got covered over by dirt. I managed to baby 5 little sprouts back to health…..only to have the fuzzy fart come again one night and tidily, chew off every single leave! A few days later, he mowed down the stems….

  16. 9-11

    I’ve got ONE stalk of basil left. It’s flowered, but I’m still using it! I’m not giving up!! :)

    But, what wonderful ideas for an abundance of basil! Thanks for sharing!

  17. 9-11

    So I planted a few seeds…late…and figured if they came up, they came up…guess what…I GOTS BASIL!…than for letting me know what to do with it as I am not experienced with fresh herbs!

  18. 9-11

    **thanks** I mean! :lol:

  19. 9-11

    These are great ideas. One year when my basil went to flower the ONE day I didn’t check it, I let the stalks grow large. Then I cut and dried them. They are now tied with raffia as a beautiful and fragrant “bouquet”. Lovely!

  20. 9-11

    Here’s a use I’d previously not heard of. I recently went to a restaurant that offered a strawberry-basil martini. It was surprisingly good. Who’da thought? As for me… pesto! :yes:

  21. 9-11
    pm This link is actually for keeping the chickens but I was thinking that you could create this around the beds boxes and make them high enough for you to stand.

  22. 9-11

    When I can tomatoes I put basil leaves in with the tomatoes to add extra flavor to the tomatoes.

  23. 9-11

    So. I went out and got some stalks of basil to set inside the house because of the unwelcome flies. Then decided to open a couple of doors so that they’d have a way to get out!! (DUH!)

    It seems to have worked! Thanks!!

    Now, will everyone kindly go over and post your pesto recipes at Farm Bell?? Please, oh, please?? I have tried it several times, and don’t seem to ever like the results. I even have a big container of pinenuts.

  24. 9-11

    I love basil!
    What about using basil leaves in a sandwich in place of lettuce?
    Basil leaves, layered with sliced tomatoes and jack cheese and grilled between two slices of sourdough or other bread is divine.

  25. 9-12

    When I’ve got lots of basil to spare,I put leaves into zip-lock bags and freeze it for use during the time when I haven’t got any basil. You can crumble it in the bag and just empty it straight into your cooking pot. No chopping needed!!

  26. 9-12

    A few years ago, I planted a little bitty basil plant from the nursery, thinking that it would be fine for a few meals.( Not a big pesto lover here, but do love the fragrance and beautiful purple flowers).
    So what happens? That thing grew and grew and I kept chopping it back and chopping it back !Last year, I thought that maybe it would just go away if I chopped it back and transplanted it into a different pot.. Well…. I chopped and transplanted and it is still here! What’s even crazier is that we just relocated to an even warmer area and I thought “AHA!This will surely do it in..”
    Umm… guess that isnt going to happen. It is still sitting out there patiently waiting for me to make something out of it,I think..
    May just have to do that! And to think … all because I wanted enough basil for a few meals…

  27. 9-13

    I’ve had a banner basil year too!

    Think I’ll bring some in tonight – I’m wondering if they will deter the fruit flies from the tomatoes I left sitting too long!


  28. 9-14

    I made basil butter and use it to saute’ onions and such for soup or whatever. People are amazed when you pull out the fresh baked bread and basil butter. They just stare at you and can’t think of anything to say!! It’s fun to see the reactions. I try to send them home with some bread and butter so we’ll be friends forever!

  29. 9-15

    I planted basil for the first time this year and it did really well. I’ve learned a lot reading all these comments so now other than using and drying I can make some butter and I’m going to try some pesto to see if I like it. I’ve never tried the stuff before! I like the idea of bringing some into the house to deter flies. Great post!

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