While I came bearing gifts and lunch to celebrate my friend Sharon’s Birthday, I left with a surprise parting gift. She taught me how to propagate basil.
How to propagate basil
As we were walking to my car, I casually reached down to admire her ginormous basil plant. Oh, that earthy, delightful fragrance! With that, she pinched off a couple of stems and suggested that I stick them in water for a few days. “They’ll grow roots and then you can plant them!”
And that’s exactly what happened just two weeks later, as you can see in the photos above. Yes, in a paper cup.
propagate: to produce a new plant using a parent plant (of a plant or animal) to produce young plants.
Not only did the basil grow massive roots, those sprigs nearly doubled in size. That’s when I filled a pot with planting soil and gave my little crop of basil a permanent place to thrive. Soon, I’m going to pinch off a few sprigs to propagate another pot of basil. And who knows? Maybe another and another.
From basil to pesto
If you’ve been around this blog for any time at all, you can predict what’s to follow. I’ve got Christmas on my mind. After all, it is July. It’s time to come up with yet another way to turn summer’s bounty into gifts for the Holidays.
Given how easy it is to grow basil, this year I’ll be making gifts of pesto—specifically Pesto Genovese (peh-sto geh-no-VEH-zeh).
Whether you grow it in your garden or in a container (it is so easy and probably not too late in the season to plant) or find it at a produce stand or farmer’s market, basil is the main ingredient in this gourmet food item. It is sure to please just about everyone on your gift list this holiday season. It’s consumable, unique, and absolutely the right size and color.
- Food processor (or in a pinch, a blender see Note 1)
- large bowl
- 60-65 small basil leaves (50 gr. or 2 oz.)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin oil
- 6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (70 gr. or 2.5 oz. tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons Pecorino cheese cut into small pieces (30 gr. 1 oz.)
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts (15 gr., or 5 oz.)
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste (sea salt, kosher salt)
- Place the bowl and blades of a food processor in the refrigerator or freezer until the tools are very cold, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, get the basil leaves ready by washing them in cold water.
- Place the clean basil in a large bowl with plenty of ice for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove leaves from the ice and dry them very well in a kitchen towel. Important: The basil leaves must be very dry.
- Remove bowl and blades from the refrigerator or freezer and place basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, and grated Parmigiano in the food processor bowl.
- Pulse a few seconds in the food processor.
- Add salt and Pecorino cheese to the bowl.
- Blend all ingredients in the food processor for about 1 minute.
- Add olive oil to the bowl and blend for about 5 minutes at medium speed, and at intervals: blend a few seconds, stop and start again until you see a creamy green pesto sauce. Work quickly as you do not want the pesto to heat up.
- Serve Pesto Genovese over pasta (you may want to add a tablespoon or so of the pasta water to the Pesto to thin it out a bit, as needed) or as a spread on toasted bread as an appetizer. Yield: About 1 cup; 6 servings. 33 cal per serving.
- Store Pesto Genovese in the refrigerator, in an airtight container for 2-3 days, taking care to cover the sauce with a layer of extra virgin olive oil.
- It's possible to freezer pesto in small jars, again covered with a thin layer of olive oil, and then defrost it in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
Gifts of Pesto
When preparing pesto for gifts, you’ll want to attach a tag with the following:
This all-natural pesto was made in the Genovese style with fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses.
To Use: Toss with hot pasta, or use as a crostini topping, as a marinade for chicken or fish. Keep refrigerated and use within one week. Enjoy!
Now that I know how to propagate basil (so easy), I’m ready to try using this super fun technique with other herbs—perhaps even onions and garlic too!