Every year my garden improves greatly from it’s predecessor. This is partially because every year I gain more experience in gardening but also due to the fact that I do a bit of research before the gardening season arrives, especially on vegetables that did not thrive as much as I thought they should the year before.
Aside from that, I also always look for new things to introduce to my garden, even if that means ordering heirloom tomato seeds from Croatia! Small trick; if ordering from aboard, make sure you order early enough to ensure your seeds are delivered in time for seeding season! I still have a small package or purple tomato seeds that are patiently waiting for next season since I received them too late to plant them this year, booh!
When planning out my garden last spring, I knew I wanted to introduce fresh herbs to my garden and did quite a lot of research on basil plants specifically (as I am a proud basil addict). Turns out that the most successful plants in my garden this year were my basil plants! As I said, I read a lot on growing your own herbs and I kept reading that basil plants were either a hit or a miss! I think this is because basil plants don’t thrive as well indoors and a lot of the time people try to start them inside very early (stores often start selling small basil plants in March which is quite tempting after the long and dreadful winter). Basil plants need plenty of sunlight (at least 6-8 hours a day in direct sunlight) and warm temperature (at least 65 degrees) to produce well so I would not recommend starting them indoors more than two weeks before transferring them outside at the end of May or early June. After transplanting them outside, you need to trim your basil plants often! The trick to make them become bushy and grow not only in height but in width as well is to trim your basil right above a set of leaves! This will make the stem you just cut split into two stems when it continues to grow, and hence making your plant wider. Simply repeat this step all season when you need to harvest some basil! Oh, and if flowers start to form by the end of the summer, make sure to cut them off! The flowers soak up a lot of the plant’s energy and can eventually make your leaves less healthy.
As the summer’s end if fast approaching, I tried to come up with ways of preserving my basil plants (I should say bushes!). I read that a great way to store your basil leaves is to freeze them (instead of dehydrating them) which maintains their vibrant green colour. Another way to keep them alive a little longer is to bring your basil pots inside until the end of fall, but they will eventually start to wilt and die as they are annual plants. Having two cats in our house, and one of them being a small young ball of kitten energy, I knew that transferring them inside was probably not the best options for me this year. So I ended up freezing some of it and making a huge batch of pesto that should last me through the winter as I will be freezing them in small individual portions! To freeze the pesto, you can either place the pesto in small condiment plastic containers and freeze them on a baking sheet in your freezer and transferring them into a large ziplock back once they have hardened enough to be moved, or an even easier options is to place your pesto to an ice tray and once frozen, to transfer your pesto cubes into a large ziplock bag!
One last note, make sure to make your pesto before the first frost (or even before then)! As I said before, basil does not do well at cold temperatures so I would recommend chopping down your plants in September as the damage can literally happen overnight.
Okay enough about basil, on to the recipe! This pesto recipe is quite basic, aside from being vegan of course! I prefer making a basic pesto when I make large batches like this since I will be having it often during the winter. That way I can dress it up as I feel like it when I’m actually cooking something while using it. Think about it, olive pesto can get boring or even unappetizing after a few dishes, am I right?
Traditional pesto contains parmesan, a lot of parmesan. I decided to replace the parmesan with some nutritional yeast (if you don’t know what this is yet, get your hands on some as soon as you can! it will truly change your vegan life). I also added a bit of lemon juice to give it some of that parmesan tang. The measurements are just guidelines, you really can’t mess up when making pesto! Feel free to substitute different nuts, adding in some other greens like spinach or kale. The possibilities are truly endless.
Vegan Basil Pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil
- ½ cup nuts of choice walnut, pine nuts and cashews work best
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbs nutritional yeast
- 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp of tsp salt
Place the basil, nuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse to combine until the mixture is coarsely ground.
Turn the motor on and drizzle the olive oil in a thin stream. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse a few times to combine evenly.
If freezing, place in small containers or ice cube tray and place in freezer until they are hard enough that they can be transfered to a large ziplock bag.