luxurious pile of spicy green we made pesto over the next 36 hours or so...lots and lots of pesto.
Above: Love in the basil pile
At left: MT and Jonathan with the goods
We grew Genovese basil, the classic pesto variety. This is the third year we've had a big basil-harvesting and pesto-making event at Fall Equinox, which is also birthday season for both me and Christopher.
This year, MT and Jonathan and Christopher and I harvested and picked through all of the leaves, gradually filling and refilling a big plastic tub with basil.
At left: Picking leaves off of the stems, the most time-consuming and tedious part of the process, best performed with friends.
After we had enough leaves picked to begin washing and turning them into pesto, there was some enthusiastic garlic smashing (see below) followed by hours of chopping and blending in the food processor (thanks to Evaa and CP for stepping in to take the food processor controls when I was flagging).
At some point during the marathon of pesto production line activities, friends began to trickle in for birthday celebrations. Eventually, there was a sizable crowd, and good food (featuring pesto, of course) was enjoyed all round.
Shane brought an amazing pie made from wild berries and some fabulous mead from various fruits and honey from her bees, Paul and Jude contributed surprisingly delicious stewed tomatoes and green beans from their garden, Jordana made a downright delicious beet salad, and Dana brought paw paws and made mint chocolate chip ice cream on site with "milk squeezed from the cow's teat just yesterday morning" and chocolate chips she claimed to have grown herself.
April & Mike contributed the entertainment in the form of 2-month old Nathaniel, who was much admired by all.
And we ate pasta with potatoes, peppers, and chard and copious amounts of ultra-fresh pesto.
Above: Smashing and peeling homegrown garlic
Here's the basic recipe (no measurements, sorry!) for classic pesto for freezing or eating fresh. We used sunflower seeds and no cheese -- the budget version.
- Basil (Italian large-leaf or Genovese are the best varieties for pesto-making)
- High quality olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Lots of fresh garlic, smashed and peeled
- Sunflower seeds, walnuts, or pine nuts
- A little bit of fresh parsley & thyme (optional)
- Asiago or parmesan cheese, coarsely grated (optional)
We ended up with quarts and quarts of pesto -- we'll never know exactly how much because we ate so much right away and sent a whole lot home with friends.
There is nothing in the world like classic basil pesto. Besides its fabulous taste and smell, there's something about the green, green, savory, spicy, burst of flavor and color that just seems to capture the life-force of summer in a jar.
Basil is packed with chlorophyll, the magical substance that changes sunlight into plant energy, and also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and Vitamins A, D, and B2. Google turns up some interesting studies of the nutritional and medicinal properties of basil, for example: "Recently, basil was shown to rank highest among spices and herbal crops for xanthophyll carotenoids, which are associated with decreased risks of cancer and age-related eye diseases." (Read more here.)
And it tastes so good and is so beautiful.
So all of our basil is now all converted into pesto, packed into jars and various other containers, and stored for later eating. It's quite satisfying to open up the freezer and see all of that bright green, sunny summer juju, packed in for winter.