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Posts Tagged ‘basil’

It’s been a rough summer for the vegetable garden. Spring started out very cold and very wet, and so we were late getting the garden rototilled. I say “we,” but t! is the one who wrestles the rototiller around the garden for two days so that I can plant. The cold-loving veggies (onions, peas, string beans, and greens such as spinach and bok-choi) went in in the middle of May, the potatoes at the end of May, and the things that need more heat (tomatoes, cucumbers, dry beans, and squashes) went in at the beginning of June.

Through June, everything looked pretty good, chugging along slowly but surely the way a garden should. Then July and the heat wave hit. Temperatures up to 35°C and the only rain was the very occasional short, sharp thunder shower. I started watering the tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers by hand with a bucket (next year there will be some sort of irrigation system in place). The only things that didn’t seem to mind the dry and the heat were the soup beans (Great Northern and Black Turtle) and the basil.

Basil

But the first bunch of tomatoes to set fruit had blossom-end rot, which in tomatoes is caused by a lack of calcium to the flower, which in turn is almost always (and in my case certainly) caused by a lack of enough water for the plant to get the calcium in the soil up to the flowers when they need it.

Blossom End Rot (Sorry for the slightly fuzzy photo!)

So I stepped up the watering as best I could, and that seems to have solved it. I have tomatoes, but the crop is probably going to be small. It’s late in the summer, and not enough fruit has set. Small is the word for most of the crop this year. Onions, small. Potatoes, small. Cucumbers, small (and few). Bell peppers. Sigh. I have 15 bell pepper plants (red bell peppers are t!’s favourite vegetable) and 1 pepper so far.

Small Potatoes

As I’ve learned to say from my neighbours with a philosophical sigh, “That’s farming…”

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Pesto

We had a frost out here on Sunday night, and so I picked the basil – the only thing in the garden that would be affected by frost and needed to come in right away. The frost killed off the squash, tomato plants, and potatoes as well, but there were no tomatoes to harvest, the potatoes can be dug in a day or two, as soon as it dries out from the rain we had this morning, and I’ll go out to get the squash tomorrow, or as soon as it hurts slightly less to move. I’m still in the grips of this very annoying cold.

The onions, carrots, parsnips, and leeks didn’t mind the frost at all. In fact the parsnips are likely to be better and sweeter for having been frosted.

I plant a lot of basil to make pesto. We eat a fair bit of pesto, often on tortellini or other kinds of pasta for a quick meal when we’re in a rush, I also add it to salad dressings and marinade for fish.

Like with just about everything else in the garden, this year’s harvest was pretty pitiful. Three 8-foot rows yielded just barely 2 cups (packed) of usable basil leaves after I had picked off all the ones with brown spots.

Still, it whipped up into a small but very yummy batch of pesto which we will use over the next month or so. I’ll make some fresh homemade pasta to eat it with sometime later this week.

This is my standard pesto recipe:

6 cups basil leaves, packed
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1½ cups olive oil
⅔ cup pine nuts, chopped
3-4 large cloves garlic
Salt & pepper to taste

With only 2 cups of basic leaves, I cut everything down to one third. I make everything in a food processor, chopping the garlic, then adding the basil leaves a bit at a time and chopping on fairly low speed. The pine nuts and cheese go in next, whirring them just enough to mix, and then I added the olive oil 2 tablespoons at a time until I got to a consistency I was happy with. Commercial pesto tends to be swimming in oil, and I like a lower oil-to-basil ratio so that the flavour of the basil is more pronounced. I ended up using about 10 tablespoons of olive oil.

I managed to forget to add the salt and pepper, not a biggie since I can add it to whatever I’m cooking with basil. But I highlighted the “Salt, pepper” line in my handwritten recipe book so that I’m less likely to forget next time. The salt acts as a preservative, as well as a flavouring, so should really be included if you want the pesto to keep well in the fridge.

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