When live gives you lemons, make lemonade, the saying goes. And using the same philosophy, when you’re basil looks sick and you know it’s all dying, pick it quickly and make pesto. That’s what I did yesterday.
Last week I realized that my basil plants were failing. Their leaves were turning yellow and then brown. When I looked at the underside of the foliage there were clear signs that these plants have downy mildew. Knowing that there is no cure for this problem once the plants are infected, I decided to harvest them right away so that any still healthy growth could at least be used for pesto that will then be frozen.
This is how the beginning of downy mildew looks on basil. See the yellowing leaves?
When you look underneath the yellowing leaves there is a combination of grayish and white growth; a very fine layer of moldy, dirty looking areas.
So I picked the entire row, knowing that since the top growth is still good I could freeze this as pesto an still get a good harvest of basil for the winter.
Next I pulled off all the decent looking leaves and washed them in a salad spinner.
While I was roasting the garlic I picked the good leaves off of the basil stems.
Put the basil leaves and some roasted garlic into a food processor with olive oil. I used one clove of garlic and one tablespoon of olive oil for every two cups of basil foliage. Add some grated Parmesan to make it blend well.
Once the pesto is well blended place spoon fulls on a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Top with another sheet of waxed paper and put this in the freezer. The next day take those lumps of frozen pesto and and put them in a zip-lock bag, returning them to the freezer. These can be used for pesto on pasta, on veggies or added to soups or tomato sauces all winter.