Homemade pesto is the payoff after we previously showed you how to set up an indoor herb garden! My personal favourite herb is basil and we use it in a lot of dishes. It’s not only great as a pesto, but in a bocconcini, tomato and basil salad. As you’ll see later, we also love to use it to simply top a burger.
You might be tempted to pick off a leaf or two as you need it. But if you make a habit of doing that, you can leave the plant looking spindly and sad. The key to producing more basil, and keep it lasting and looking good, is to prune. Pruning will foster full bushy plants. To ensure that you are not going to damage the plant, wait until it has at least three or four sets of leaves and is about 6″ to a foot tall before the first pruning.
Basil leaves grow on opposite sides of the stem. Cut the plant 1/4″ above at least two sets of leaves (where the scissor icon is pictured below). The leaves left at the top of the stem will grow out to become branches. Once the branches bear a few sets of leaves, again, just cut them above a pair of leaves and the plant will re-grow.
You can harvest in this fashion every few weeks or so; it’s as simple as that! For an in-depth demonstration of how to prune, check out this video by Laura at Garden Answer. Although she’s growing basil outdoors, the same basic principles apply.
As long as you leave two pairs of leaves on each stem, you’re good to go. The only other thing to remember is to pinch off the flower buds as soon as you see them (the brief video shows you how). This redirects more energy back into producing more leaves.
Keep it Fresh
After cutting down the basil, don’t put the stems in the fridge. The leaves will turn black and eventually go slimy. Instead, put them into a glass or jar filled with water and keep them out of the sun (you can barely even see the glass below hidden behind all that basil). Changing the water every other day will keep your basil fresh for a week or more. However, we’ve read that if you leave some of the stems in the glass of water they’ll even root so you can replant them in another pot! We might just give that a try!
You can then use the leaves as you need them, like to top a burger or make pesto; the uses are up to you!
On our sustainability journey, we’re working on conserving water too, so here’s a great way to save the runoff water from rinsing your herbs to reuse to water your plants! Shown here is a BOHOLMEN Colander and rinsing tub that we’ve owned for a while. Ikea has since discontinued these items, however a replacement line called GRUNDVATTNET (which comes in white) is now available and does exactly the same thing!
With our first batch of basil, we decided to make pesto and freeze it into cubes for future use. The PLASTIS ice cube tray comes in handy for this purpose!
Don’t hesitate to experiment with the nut component of pesto. Although pine nuts are traditionally used, we tried walnuts instead! With about 2 cups of basil to work with, we blitzed it in the food processor with 1/3 cup walnuts and three minced garlic cloves. Half a cup of extra virgin olive oil gets drizzled in next. Scrape down the sides of the food processor as needed to ensure everything is well incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
We usually also add 1/2 cup of grated Romano or Parmesan cheese to our pesto. However, when we’re freezing it, we leave it out of the cubes and add it in fresh when we’re ready to cook with it.
Once everything was mixed, we spooned the pesto into the individual cubes and turned a second PLASTIS upside down on top of the first one to act as a lid (we’re making a concerted effort to cut down on plastic wrap too)! It was then ready to pop into the freezer. It should be frozen in as little as two hours, but we left it overnight.
In the morning, once the cubes were frozen, we transferred them into an IKEA 365+ glass container where it will keep in the freezer for up to six months. Whenever we want pesto, all we have to do is defrost a cube or two. We toss them into soups, pasta, or spread onto a sandwich.
A Quick Meal
When we’re strapped for time, we defrost 3 cubes of our pesto in the microwave. Then we stir in a two teaspoons of parmesan cheese and add it to pasta. It’s just enough for two of us; not bad for a quick meal!
There’s nothing more delicious than homemade pesto. We’re really enjoying our new herb garden and its bounty! Interested in growing your own herbs too? Check out our last post on how to set up your own indoor garden, if you missed it!
Hopefully we can rely on a green thumb to keep our herb garden going for years to come! Basil plants don’t last forever however. It’s good practice to re-seed to ensure an ongoing supply. When your basil plant stops producing as many leaves, check out this post over at Home for the Harvest for more tips and tricks on how to grow basil indoors and keep it going!
If you’re enjoying our Sustainable Sunday series, please pin to share our tips for leading a more sustainable life. Small changes can have big impact!