Wednesday, 25 April 2007

G.Y.O. Little Foodie Herb Garden & Basil Pesto

It's no bad thing to grow your own herbs. I love walking outside just before cooking and cutting a few bits of this or that herb. The scent is amazing and it just feels good. I've designed a few herb gardens over the years. Some a huge success, some not. You learn by your mistakes. Firstly I haven't had much success with growing herbs in pots outside. With hosepipe bans the norm by the end of Spring, in Surrey, it just doesn't happen for me. It's too much like hard work to keep filling a watering can, besides they're heavy! Much better to prepare a patch of garden where you can plant directly into. Not in a windy spot and they don't like acid soil! I've used both seeds and small plants. Both work well but using small plants gives you an established herb garden more quickly. There are loads of books to help with the technicalities.

When you first start off don't choose too many. If I had to pick only some, I'd choose - Mint, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Marjoram, Chives, Bay and Basil. It's nice to plant nasturtiums which take over but they are beautiful. I'd like to grow some wild garlic, there's plenty of it growing locally by the river. May have to sneak out at night with a trowel and a trug. Torty as Small would say, and he's right it would be naughty.

Basil is one of the few herbs I grow in pots, because it's so vulnerable. It's best kept inside until June when there aren't going to be any more frosts. This is easy to grow from seed. Choose a medium size pot (about 10cm wide at the top). Fill the base with shingle then add a multi-purpose compost to about 3 cm from the top, dot the seeds around in the compost, sprinkle 1cm soil over the top and water. It's best to mist water over so the seeds don't gather in one place. Leave on a sunny windowsill and water every few days until it becomes established. It's best to water the soil only once it's growing or you can rot the stem.

You can FREEZE fresh basil. Cut the leaves and stems off, place in a tightly sealed bag and label. Shove it in the freezer and take out when you need to for flavouring. It breaks up really easily, just crumbles.

Little Foodies Basil Pesto
Fill a jug to about 500ml mark with fresh or frozen basil (I don't know what the approx weight would be)
60g pine kernels
1 clove garlic, crushed
60g grated parmesan cheese
180 ml olive oil

In a blender, add the basil, pine kernels, garlic and half the cheese, Using the pulse button, blend until it becomes creamy. Gradually add the oil and the rest of the cheese. Everyone I know has their preferences for how they like pesto so play with the quantities until it's just how you like it.
I made it with almonds once as I didn't have any pine kernels and it tasted delicious!


Freya and Paul said...

I bet it was good with almonds too. I saw Sophie Grigson (I think) do it with walnuts as well. I have a miniscule herb garden but I can only get rosemary and thyme to grow and they look after themselves anyway!!

Marie said...

Ohh, thanks for all these herb growing hints! I love pesto. It is so versatile and can be used in so many ways. I made a lovely pisctachio one the other day that was to die for. Look for it on my blog real soon!

joey said...

I would love to have fresh herbs on call but I live in a little flat with not even a window box for plants so anything I attempt to grow will have to be in a pot there hope for me you think?

I made pesto with walnuts once, also because I ran out of pine nuts...delicious!

Little Foodie said...

What is blogging etiquette do you return a comment on your blog or do you go to the blog of who left the comment and leave a comment there? Baffling...
Thanks for the comments. Sounds like the walnut option is delicious.

Little Foodie said...

Oh and Joey - I have grown basil and coriander in tiny pots indoors. They did grow but didn't last too long. Enough to flavour a few good meals though.

joey said...

Thanks! :)


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