Daily Archives: July 10, 2008

Scott finally chimes in – A Pesto Manifesto

One of the great things to enjoy summer all year is to make and freeze pesto. Pesto is fairly simple to make but there are a couple tips I’ve learned over the years that I’d like to share.

The first tip is that you can add other herbs or greens. Pesto doesn’t necessarily have to be made from only basil. You can add with basil or replace it completely. Parsley, cilantro, spinach, kale, amaranth leaves all make great additions or replacements for the basil. They have great flavor and can bulk up your recipe if you are short on basil. My favorite is half spinach and half basil basically because I can add more sauce without getting overwhelmed by the strong basil flavor.

The second tip is to blanch the basil and or greens before you make the pesto. This makes a huge difference in the color. It stays vibrant green instead of dulling or browning. Blanching is easy. Have a bowl of ice water or cold water ready. Get some water boiling in a pot. Toss the basil or other greens in the boiling water for 30 seconds making sure you give it a stir or two. Pull the greens out with tongs or a spoon and quickly get them in the cold water to stop them cooking. They are now blanched and ready to use.

The third tip is to freeze the basil in ice cube trays. Then when frozen, pop them out into a freezer bag for later use. This is so handy because the cubes are easy to use for portioning – about 1 per person depending on what you’re making. Just take a few out thaw them in the microwave or toss directly in a hot pot and toss with noodles.

Here is a good basic basil recipe but remember the variations are only limited by your imagination…

Makes about 1 full ice cube tray
Blanch 2 loose cups of spinach and 2 loose cups of basil
In a blender place
– the blanched spinach and basil with
– a couple table spoons of the blanching or cooling water
– two peeled garlic cloves (more or less depending on your taste for garlic)
– a hand full of nuts (pine nuts are classic but I like walnuts)
– a quarter to half a cup of good extra virgin olive oil
– a quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese
– salt to taste (too little is better than too much because you can always add it when you use the pesto later)

Blend it up to to a loose paste. The amount of olive oil varies due to the moisture of the other ingredients. I add it until everything in the blender starts to churn.

Thai Basil


Filed under Recipes

Our Little Praying Pet + Free Download

Praying Mantis
The other day while walking through the yard with my camera I glanced down at my shoulder and saw this little guy sitting on it. There he was sitting here, just along for a free ride, as I strolled along. Of course my little one wanted desperately to hold him. This hasn’t been the first time we’ve had a hitch hiking praying mantis. They are friendly little creatures and love to hop on for a free ride when they see that you’re walking through the garden. And they’re bad ass too. Read this description I got from Wikipedia:

Mantises are notable for their hunting abilities. They are exclusively predatory, and their diet usually consists of living insects, including flies and aphids; larger species have been known to prey on small lizards, frogs, birds, snakes, and even rodents. Most mantises are ambush predators, waiting for prey to stray too near. The mantis then lashes out at remarkable speed. Some ground and bark species, however, pursue their prey rather quickly. Prey are caught and held securely with grasping, spiked forelegs (“raptorial legs”); the first thoracic segment, the prothorax, is commonly elongated and flexibly articulated, allowing for greater range of movement of the front limbs while the remainder of the body remains more or less immobile. The articulation of the head is also remarkably flexible, permitting nearly 300 degrees of movement in some species, allowing for a great range of vision (their compound eyes have a large binocular field of vision) without having to move the remainder of the body.

Ellen asked me the other day what we did for pest control so Scott and I had a talk about it this morning over breakfast. And really, we take a preventative approach to pests. When we first moved in 6 growing seasons ago, we did have a pest problem, and a lack of water retention problem, and a whole lot of other problems. Our plants were small and bug eaten, but as we’ve learned more and more about organic gardening we’ve learned that the key to pest prevention is to nurture healthy plants. Give them highly nutritious soil, water them correctly and provide habitats for beneficial insects.

Now while we do have our fair share of white flies, aphids, grasshoppers and other pests out in the yard, after six years of returning the soil back to health, we have them outnumbered with ladybugs, praying mantis’, birds, chickens, soldier beetles and all sorts of good little guys. And really at this point we don’t do much to control the bad bugs. We collect snails when we see them and pick off a worm or two, but at this point we let nature take it’s course and live with the little bug bites we do get. Of course, that’s not to say that we haven’t lost a plant or two, but really that was my own lazy fault for not jumping onto of the situation earlier.

If you’d like to read up more about different pests and what you can do to organically treat them you can download this free pdf. It’s an exerpt from the ebook I have over in my sidebar: How to Start an Organic Garden. You can download the pdf here, it’s full of photos and treatment ideas and its yours for the taking.


Filed under Bad Bugs, Good Bugs, what we've learned