I had harvested a ton of basil from my garden two days ago but only this morning found the time to turn it into pesto. Some of the leaves had wilted a bit, but overall, storing the basil wrapped in dry paper towels in a produce bag in the fridge worked very well. I just washed the leaves and dried them well and then processed them with olive oil and salt using my stick blender. As usual, I did not add garlic, cheese or nuts to my “pesto”. I find it more versatile this way. And it also keeps better in the freezer.
Today I processed my garlic. It has been almost three weeks since the harvest, and it has been hot and very humid here in Boston. I had a total of 21 heads of softnecks (Transylvania) and used 16 of them to make the braid above, which is now proudly displayed in my pantry. The remaining 5 heads, which I am keeping as seed garlic, include the largest head I harvested plus four heads that had started to split. Those four were still large heads, and I hope they will store well until October/November when I can get the cloves in the ground. Softnecks store well, so they will be used after all of last year’s harvest and all of this year’s hardnecks have been used up.
I also had harvested 17 heads of hardneck garlic (Red Russian), of which I kept the two largest as seed garlic. I left a longer stem for the rest of them because I noticed that they were not fully cured. For now, I will store them in a single layer in my kitchen so they can continue to cure.
I scaled down my garlic-growing operation for this year, because starting September, I will be an empty-nester. 31 heads will be more than enough to get me through next year.
I turned two of these beauties I harvested two days ago into quick refrigerator pickles. The other one will become Tzatziki.
I decided to experiment with preserving more of my herbs this year. I always have been making the base for basil pesto by simply chopping freshly harvested basil with olive oil and freezing it in ice cube trays. I sometimes add kale or arugula to the mix. This basil “pesto” is then used throughout the year in pasta dishes, on pizza or focaccia, and for chicken, fish, roasted vegetables and other dishes. I find that leaving out the nuts, cheese and garlic makes it more versatile, and I can always add those later.
I also have been making Thai basil pesto (with sesame oil, rice vinegar and peanuts), but I have always used it fresh or kept it in the fridge for a few days. I just made my first batch this week to use for these crispy pork noodle bowls. So good! I always use a different recipe for the pesto though. This year, I am planning to experiment with freezing Thai basil in a similar way as my regular basil, so I can make fresh Thai basil pesto throughout the colder months. I have five plants in a big container on my porch and expect to get several harvests out of them.
This year, I am trying to find ways to preserve my parsley. I have two huge plants on my porch and one in my plot. Parsley is probably the herb I used the most in the kitchen, from Moroccan meatballs to fish dishes to soups to simple garnishes. I harvested a big handful, washed it and chopped it up in a food processor. I then froze it with a bit of water in ice cube trays and later moved the cubes to a ziplock bag. This first batch turned out quite crumbly, so next time, I will add more water and even freeze some of the parsley in olive oil.
This morning, I harvested all my garlic. I have 17 hardnecks (Red Russian) and 21 softnecks (Transylvania), which is funny, because I planted 16 hardnecks and 20 softnecks. The heads are nice and big. I put the garlic on the porch to cure in indirect sunlight for two to three weeks. (I will spread them out a little more tomorrow.)
I turned the garlic scapes I harvested a couple of days ago into pesto: just store-bought basil, garlic scapes, olive oil and salt, homogenized with a stick blender and frozen in ice cube trays with a thin layer of olive oil on top. I then stored the cubes in a Ziplock bag in the freezer. They will last for several months. I am still using pesto I made last year. I find that leaving out cheese and nuts makes the pesto more versatile, for instance if I decide to use it on fish or shrimp. One cube packs a punch. I also used rosemary from my porch to make rosemary focaccia, which I had for dinner with a big home-grown salad.
Last night, I pickled my green tomatoes. When they cool down over night on the counter, the color goes from a bright green to a pickle-greenish-brown. I am looking forward to using these on sandwiches (my favorite combination: sharp cheddar, grainy mustard, apple slices, arugula), or on burgers. Yum!
The last tomatoes of 2022. I harvested them yesterday, November 5, just before I pulled all plants. My first tomatoes this year were harvested on July 15. I will savor the last red tomato and quick-pickle the green tomatoes for sandwiches. Yum!
The garden is brimming with tomatoes. Pictured above is yesterday’s harvest, and I harvested almost as many tomatoes the day before. Time for a second batch of oven-roasted garlicky tomatoes and basil “pesto”. To keep it versatile, I make the latter only with basil, olive oil and salt. I leave out cheese and nuts to add in later depending on the use. Sometimes, I like to mix it with goat cheese for a pesto-goat cheese-spread or use it in a compound butter, which would not need Parmesan. I also found that it freezes better this way. For the tomatoes, I only use red ones and no big slicers. If the larger tomatoes are very juicy, I blot them with paper towels before they go in the oven. I roasted this batch at 275F for two hours and packed it in olive oil. This batch will go in the fridge, the last one went in the freezer for use in a few months. I like to use those in pasta sauces, on pizza or as toppings for sandwiches or savory crepes. It is amazing how a baking sheet packed with tomatoes gets reduced to a single half-pint canning jar.
Some more basil pesto for the freezer:
Over the past few days I have been preserving some of this summer’s harvest. I oven-dried tomatoes, and pickled cucumbers and peppers. My cucumber harvest this year was pathetic. I got about six cucumbers from as many plans. The tomatoes are very strong though. I guess it is the heat. The peppers are “Pickling Peppers”, a gift from Sand Hill Preservation Center, and I followed the instructions and pickled them. Looking forward to trying them in a few days.