Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lots of Basil

We relate to Italian people. We like their food. I also like to have my Italian food loaded with flavours far beyond the proscribed amount - maybe somewhere in the vicinity of several factors of ten. Just ask about our patented field-of-tomatoes lasagna, or our spaghetti garlicnaise. We use lots of basil - its almost hard to quantify to any normal person, we consume more than some small nations - and when we were buying it in those ridiculous little jars, we were spending above the GDP of said nations. When you're emptying almost a whole jar into the average meal, lets face it, you've got a budget problem, and probably need to seek professional help.

Luckily for us, its stupidly easy to grow basil. Its a plant that loves your neglect, praises you for it even - and I am a man worthy of such praise. We planted four plants this year, straight into the ground in early spring. I prefer them in the ground; they grow bigger and absorb so much more of your neglect. Who knew how tasty a bit of neglect could be simmering in a pot of minced meat and diced tomatoes? Its like having all the benefits of the middle child, and none of the emotional scarring.

Now, after a few months emptying fresh bucket loads of basil to imbue in the nightly chow, winter's starting to take its toll on our thicket of basil. Yes, thicket. I've seen jungles sparser than our forest of basil - because the more you scold it, the more it produces. What a master of evolution. So the machete has come out, and we've been drying basil.

Our process is becoming somewhat refined now (observe our makeshift basil-line). Hanging it up and leaving it to dry simply isn't an option - we've lost too much in this way to invading armies of mould (and we need every bit of basil we can get). After hacking it from the thicket, we give it a good wash off to remove all the flavours you don't want in your lasagna - you know, grasshopper, spider, caterpillar excrement. Then we do hang it up to dry for a short period - just until its not visibly wet any more (this is important later).

Then, as demonstrated by our lovely hand model, it is laid out on paper-toweling, which is stacked into three layers for the nuking. Three minutes in the microwave gives us some really good, mould-free & dry basil. Its important the basil not be quite so wet because this tends to burn the shit out of it. And hey pesto! we have enough for winter.

But wait there's more. We also save a tonne on house-hold air freshers that are probably giving you cancer. Because everything now smells like basil - the kitchen, the microwave, that little space behind the stove you always drop things you can't retrieve. Even the smell of the discarded offcuts will make you want to scoop compost onto some spaghetti next week.


  1. Thanks for sharing the way to handle basil.... interesting. ~ bangchik

  2. I've never dried basil in the microwave before. I've always used a dehydrator to preserve it. Or chopped it up and mixed with oil and froze it.

  3. I am there with you as far as the basil goes. I'm growing three varieties in pots on my balcony this summer and I gift my friends with pesto at the end of the season. Thanks for the drying tips!

  4. We've also tried drying it in the oven - which ended with a lot of burnt basil. It was just too tricky to control (well at least with a gas oven). I'm very interested to get a food dehydrator though - it'd be a much more diversely useful tool as well. Do you have any experiences / advice to share on that?

    What is it like after you've added oil & froze it? And how do you use it after you've thawed it again?