Abundant Basil

Is it possible to have too much of this flavorful herb? We asked two Southern gardeners for their thoughts.
Edwin Marty
 Abundant Basil
The botanical name of basil, Ocimum basilicum, is derived from Greek words meaning "the king of smell." This gardener is finding out why.
Van Chaplin

The only real question for Randy is what to do when frost threatens the plants. Because the herb is so cold sensitive, it's important to pay attention to the weather forecast and pick all of the basil before it gets burned by the frost. You'll need to have a plan for dealing with this sudden abundance. "I'm not a fan of drying basil, because it quickly loses its vigor," he says.

However, if processed properly, basil can retain all of its flavor. Randy's preferred method is to cut and grind the basil with some olive oil and then pour the mixture into ice-cube trays. He adds a dash of oil to the top of the trays before freezing the harvest. "The extra bit of oil on top really seals in the flavor and prevents any of the basil from getting freezer burn." Once the cubes are solid, Randy stores them in a freezer bag and adds them to the savory dishes he cooks over the winter.

"There's really nothing that won't benefit from a little dash of homegrown basil," he says, "especially when the winter days seem so short and dark. I can make pesto from the cubes simply by adding crushed garlic and toasted pine nuts."

Regardless of what you do with all your basil, the answer is clear: You can never have too much.

For fresh new basil recipes see "From Our Kitchen" on page 156 of the September 2003 issue of Southern Living.

"Abundant Basil" is from the September 2003 issue of Southern Living.