Garden Fresh Basil Mint Pesto

Oh, how projects get started...Someone asked a question on one of the other posts about drying mint,
      ...which made me think about all of the mint in my garden that I haven't used ONCE yet this year
          ...which made me google what I could do with all this mint
               ...which is when I ran across a recipe for a pesto made with mint!

I get to use more basil and the mint at the same time? Score! The recipe also calls for sunflower seeds, and I just happened to have a sunflower ready to be harvested. Love it when that happens!

As you can see, the birds have already been munching on my sunflowers, and I was planning on giving the rest to the chickens. They will be disappointed that I found this recipe. So, I gathered the sunflower seed into a bowl.

The I harvested the mint and basil (making sure to pick extra as a treat for the rabbits- it is so easy to get side-tracked when playing in the garden). By the way, I do not recommend for anyone crack open all of the little sunflower seed shells to get the seeds out. It takes forever, and my fingers still hurt. Next time, I will give the sunflower seeds to the chickens and buy the seeds already shelled even though it was fun to use our own seeds.

The recipe goes together quickly and I love how it turned out. It uses very little oil, which makes it light, and the sweetness of the mint balances out the slightly bitter taste of the basil for a great combination!

If you want a pesto to use with pasta, I recommend the Basil Parsley Pesto, but if you are looking for a dip for crackers or veggie chips, this is the one!

I found the original recipe on the Meghan Telpner Nutritionista's blog, and then tweaked it a little.

 Basil Mint Pesto
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pecans, toasted on 350 degrees for 10 minutes
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Yep, it's that easy!

What else do you use mint for???

Homemade Basil Parsley Pesto Recipe

Stop the madness! How can throwing a few seeds in an empty spot in the garden turn into my raised bed being overrun by basil?! 

Okay, so it's not all that dramatic, but I do hate to see anything go to waste, and I have been scrambling to keep up with the enormous harvest of basil that I have had this year. After drying much of it to use throughout the year, I still had more that I knew what to do with. 

I had looked at different pesto recipes, but most of them call for pine nuts, which are ridiculously expensive. If I have to spend that much money to be able to use up my fresh harvest from the garden, it kind of defeats the purpose. When I was sharing this problem with my mom, she shared her pesto recipe that doesn't use pine nuts! I'm not sure where she got it, but I'll share it with you :)

Homemade Fresh Garden Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves loosely packed
2 cups fresh parsley leaves loosely packed
7 cloves garlic chopped
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups olive oil

Puree all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor. It will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or you can freeze it to use when needed. If you do freeze it, make sure to let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before freezing. The recipe makes one pint jar.

I had more basil than parsley, so I used 3 cups of basil and 1 cup of parsley and it still turned out great. Also, I decided to freeze some of mine in an ice cube tray and then put the cubes in a freezer bag so that I could thaw the pesto in serving size portions. I can't wait to use this to make a chicken pesto sandwich or simply mix with spaghetti noodles for a refreshing summer meal. 

How do you make your pesto and what do you use it for?

How to Dry Fresh Garden Basil

Anyone who cooks a lot knows how expensive dried herbs can be, but gardeners know that herbs can be some of the easiest plants to grow in your backyard, especially if you have limited space or use container gardening. A great starter herb is basil. This spring I bought a pack of basil seed for a dollar, and it has taken off! So how do you transform your green leafy plant into the dried herb that you mix into spaghetti sauce?

First, you have to harvest the basil. You can cut back your plant multiple times throughout the season. In fact, each time you cut the plant back, the fuller it will grow back. Cut back the shoots of the plant two thirds of the way down before it begins to bloom. If there are any blooms beginning to form, be sure to pinch them off before you dry the leaves.

Make sure all of the leaves are dry and clean, and then hang the branches upside down in bundles. The stems will shrink as they dry, so if you hang them by wrapping a string or twist tie around the stems then the branches may fall out with time no matter how tight it starts out. What I do is use a zip tie and hang the branches on it at a strong split between the stem and a branch of leaves. This way, no matter how much the stem shrinks, none of my basil ends up on the floor. 

Hang the branches in a dark dry place, (I keep mine in the laundry room), and wait a few weeks. Once the leaves and dry and brittle, they are ready to be chopped up!

Remove each leaf from the branch making sure that the stems are broken off of each one. This takes some time, but no one wants to eat a stem, so its worth it. 

Put all of the leaves in the food processor, and chop away!

Store the herbs in an empty spice container (reused or bought from the store). Label it and you are ready to cook with the best tasting homegrown basil ever!

From my dollar packet of seed I have already harvested 10oz of dried basil so far and my plants are only halfway through the season. And that doesn't count all of the fresh basil that I have used to make pesto this summer. I plan to never buy basil from the grocery store again. 

What do you do with your summer basil?