While I’m on a roll, here are some of the rather disappointing things that have happened in the garden this summer (I promise I’ll start posting about successes again soon)
Why can I never manage to grow lavender? A week ago this plant was perfect and beautiful fresh from the nursery. Now its almost completely dead. You can’t see it in the photo but the marigolds next to it are blooming beautifully.
This is not what turnips are supposed to look like.
My basil was beautiful all summer and had turned into a giant basil explosion which I was dreaming about harvesting and filling my freezer full of wonderful pesto to enjoy all winter long. I just need to to get some other things done so that I’d have time….apparently I waited too long. My rich green lush basil hedge has turned yellow and withered and covered in ugly brown spots.
Beautiful Basil Bushes
I had a delicious cocktail recently that was made with grapefruit juice, basil and vodka. I haven’t tried making it myself but plan to as soon as I remember to pick up grapefruit juice at the store! In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the basil component of the drink. As a summer cocktail I’d probably use fresh basil muddled with the fruit juice but in the winter and early spring when we don’t have a garden full of basil I’ll need another option. If you’ve been following my blog for long you’ll know where this is leading….Basil Simple Syrup! As you know I love simple syrups. They are such an easy way to preserve the fresh flavor of herbs, fruits and berries and can be used in so many ways. Just last night I had some of my mint simple syrup drizzled over chocolate pudding and it was heavenly!
Basil Simple Syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- two big handfuls of basil (or as much as you can stuff in the pot)
In a small pot, combine water and sugar and bring to a low boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add basil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for at least 10 minutes (I have forgotten and simmered it much longer, it turned out fine!). Pour into jars and store in the fridge or can for pantry storage. When you pour the syrup into the jars you probably won’t need to use a filter since the sugar coated leaves will form a sticky lump that will remain in the pot.
Now- what to use my Basil Syrup in first? Basil & Lime Highball? Basil Lemonade with my Lemon Syrup? Strawberry Basil Martini? It’s a good thing its Friday!
With summer still in full force, its hard to believe that its already time to start planning for next year. Two of the plants in our garden that we use the most of are our basil and dill herbs. We use dill weed (the leafy part of the plant) in summer salads and salsa, to marinate fish and to flavor chevre. Since we go through a lot of chevre, we also use a lot of dill! Basil gets used in many of the same ways, plus in spaghetti and pizza sauces and as a garnish and flavor in cocktails and lemonade. My favorite use of basil is pesto, though, and it requires LOTS of basil leaves. And both herbs can be preserved easily as well. Fresh dill weed can be mixed with salt to make dill salt for sprinkling on cheese or dried on its own and the seeds can be dried and used in pickling spice mix. Basil can be dried as well but we preserve most of our extra basil by making and freezing pesto. We save some of the fresh basil for basil simple syrup for year round cocktails.
Since we like growing so much of these herbs it only makes sense for us to harvest our own seeds for next year’s garden. Both plants create seed heads that are visibly very different from their leafy edible parts. The basil seed heads look like stalks covered in little white flowers. The dill flower heads look like yellow fireworks! In both cases I simply snip the heads off and lay them on drying screens or paper to dry. Once they are fully dry, the seeds will shake loose and I’ll just have to remove the chaff (i.e. everything that isn’t seed) and then store the seeds somewhere dark and dry until next spring!