Tag Archives: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Harvesting Basil for Pesto!

Last week I talked about harvesting in the garden, but so many times, I’ve forgotten about really harvesting in my herb garden. Sure, I’ll run out and grab some rosemary for roast chicken, or basil for a sauce, but to really get the most out of your herbs, you want to harvest them at their peak to enjoy them, but also promote new growth and a higher yield.

Herb GardenThis year, I decided to grow my herb garden in pots on the porch. I’ve planted herbs for years in a small section of the garden, but I find, often times, they get taken over by the bigger vegetables. Also, if you have hardy herbs, growing them in pots makes it easy to bring them in during the winter, enjoy them all through the off-season, and then taking them outside in the spring and already having a start on the garden. That’s what I did with my rosemary. It was great to have fresh rosemary all year, and when the weather warmed up, I took it back outside, and it’s been thriving since.

Basil PlantFor my herb garden this year, I have the above mentioned rosemary in addition to sage, tarragon, and Italian leaf parsley, which I started from seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The seeds were great and the plants have done incredibly well. I’m really happy with them. I also have chives and dill that I took the short cut and purchased at my local garden center. They are also doing well, but for my favorite, I was lucky enough to have someone bring me back seeds from Italy last year. I’ve never had basil do so well, and I can’t quite figure out if it’s the fancy seeds or just luck this year.  Either way, the basil has been doing great, and it’s time to harvest some and, of course, make pesto!

Basil FlowerI’ve found that herbs start out strong, and look amazing, but they usually get to a point, about this time of the summer, where they start to get leggy and just don’t do so well if left alone. However, if you cut them back, and bonus, you get to use what you’ve cut, they come back for a second life. The other thing to look for is if the plants start to go to seed. If you start to see flowers on the plants, that means they’re putting all of their energy into reproducing. While this may be great if you’re looking to get seeds for next year, if you’re still looking to use the herbs and want a longer season, you want to snip these flowers off. I simply pinch off the blooms, and then make sure that I use that branch next when I need some of the herb.

Leaves ReadyAs you can see, I’ve cut a good bit off of my basil plant. I’m hoping to make 3 batches of my pesto recipe. Each recipe makes about a cup of pesto. One note, I prefer to use a food processor for this recipe. You can use a blender, however, I’ve found that you need to add all of the ingredients first, and it does need some stirring and help to get completely processed. If you’re using a food processor, follow the process I’m outlining below. To start, take 3 cloves garlic, peeled, and chop them up in the food processor. Next, add 2 cups basil leaves. You just want the leaves for this, and you want pretty packed cups. Whirl that around until the basil is nicely chopped, then add 1/4 cup pine nuts and Ingredients1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated. Give that another quick whirl. If you let it go too long, it will come together, almost like a dough. If that happens, don’t worry, you’re still good. With the food processor running, slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil, and process that until it’s nice and smooth.

After I was finished with this batch, I made 2 more. If you’re making several batches, just start over. You really don’t want to double or triple the recipe, as it doesn’t turn out as good. But, the good news is, I don’t even wash the food processor in between. 🙂

If you’re growing herbs, I hope they’re as productive as mine have been this year! And if you’re not, stop by the grocery store and pick up some basil. Pesto is a great sauce to have on hand, especially in the summer for a quick pasta dish. Enjoy!

Pesto

How Does Your Garden Grow?

GardenIt seems like only a few weeks ago when I was writing about planting seeds, but it was actually March 21.  It’s hard to believe it’s been 3 months, so I thought I would give you an update and let you know how I went about planting everything.

Even though I was on top of the seed planting, my transplanting outdoors was delayed.  Sure, I can blame it on the long winter and the rain we kept getting in the spring, and I can even blame it on the trip we took to Greece in May that took up my time Tilling(more recipes from that trip later), but, really, I was just late! 🙂  I finally tilled the garden and planted everything about a month ago, and, even though things are a bit behind, they are doing really well!

This year, I did try to be strategic about my tilling the garden.  If you turn the soil and then it rains in the next few days, it’s a bad scene.  All of those weed seeds that were just turned get fed with the water and start to grow.  However, if it’s warm and sunny, the seeds will dry out and die.  This year I seemed to time the tilling right and the weeds haven’t been that bad…so far.

Ready for PlantingOnce I got the tilling done, I was ready to plant.  You may remember I had a lovely diagram that I put together for my garden.  And, even though I had the best of intentions, my garden doesn’t exactly look like that diagram.  Things happen!  The beets didn’t quite make it when I took them outside…I didn’t end up with as many squash plants as I wanted…you get the idea.  So, no worries, I adjusted.  However, even Marigoldsthough you may need to make adjustments, I still stand behind the diagram!

After I planted, one trick I always use is planting marigolds around the perimeter of my vegetable garden.  I’ve found that this really keeps the deer away.  The one year I didn’t, the deer had a feast.  So I keep doing it!  I guess it could be a coincidence, but I’m not taking any chances. 🙂

I’m pretty happy with the progress and looking forward to a good yield.  If you’re growing this summer, how are your vegetables coming along?  Here is how things are coming along in my garden…

As you can see from the top picture, my tomatoes are starting to bloom…slow but steady!

The eggplants are coming along!

EggplantThe arugula is doing great…but pay no attention to those weeds growing in there! 🙂

ArugalaThe zucchini is getting huge!ZucchiniBaker Creek Heirloom Seeds was nice enough to send me some complementary red romaine lettuce seeds that are coming along!Red RomaineSince I didn’t have luck with all of my seeds, I did get some spaghetti squash to fill in, and it’s doing great!Spaghetti Squash

Ordering Seeds and Getting Ready for SPRING!

I had a glimmer of hope for spring this week, and now I just can’t let it go.  I was in Austin at a conference for work, and while it wasn’t as warm as it could be in Texas this time of year, it was in the 60s, and it made me excited for spring…even after I came back to the snow.  But spring is coming, and if it’s coming, for me, that means planning for the garden and ordering seeds.

CatalogsI love gardening.  Whether it be flowers, trees, shrubs, vegetables, it doesn’t matter, I just love to play in the dirt, as I like to say.  And when those catalogs arrive (see my post from January for more on that), I get so excited about the possibilities.  The most exciting for me at this time of year is the vegetable garden, because I basically start from scratch every year.  While there are some perennials people may have (like rhubarb or asparagus), I don’t have any in my vegetable patch.  I get to reconfigure every year, and last week, that’s just what I did. 

Fava BeansMy first step was figuring out what I wanted to plant this year.  Sure, I have the staples every year, tomatoes, lettuces, zucchini, and squash.  But this year, I wanted to try a few new vegetables.  I love beets and kale, and especially fava beans, so I’m adding those to the mix this year.  And I’m giving Brussels sprouts a try (mainly because I love them).  The next step was figuring out the varieties.  If you’re used to picking up plants at your local garden center, you probably haven’t had the opportunity to play with different varieties.  Sure, there were probably many Listvarieties of tomatoes, and maybe even one or two heirlooms, but aside from that, many garden centers just carry one variety of other vegetables.  That’s one of the reasons why I like to start from seed.  When you open those seed catalogs, there are so many different varieties, it’s amazing.

This year, I decided to get my vegetable seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I really wanted to focus on heirloom varieties this year, and I’ve heard great things about their seeds from a friend of mine (who also blogs, but, unfortunately for me, it’s in French…Le Hamburger et le Croissant).  If you haven’t seen their site or catalog, Baker Creek has a great variety, and their catalog is beautiful.  The vegetables and plants are expertly photographed.

GraphThe next part, and for me one of the most fun, is planning out the layout.  I’ve found the easiest way to plan out the garden is to use graph paper.  Just figure out your dimensions and use some sort of scale.  I used one block for one foot in the garden.  Then go through and plot out your garden.  Pay special attention to any light restrictions (mine is all in the sun, so that wasn’t an issue) but also how far something spreads, if they are vines, etc.  Once you have this map, it’s so much easier to get out there and actually plant in the next few months.

I don’t know about you but I’m excited.  My seeds are already on their way, and I’m looking forward to starting them indoors.  I’ll probably write about that in another week or two.  Oh, and if you’re interested in what I purchased, here’s what I chose:

  • Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto Fava Bean-SKU: FB105
  • Detroit Dark Red Beet-SKU: BT110
  • Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts-SKU: BS101
  • Marketmore 76 Cucumber-SKU: CU101
  • Astrakom Eggplant-SKU: EG174
  • Birdhouse Gourd-SKU: GD108
  • Tronchuda Kale-SKU: KA107
  • Sugar Snap Pea-SKU: SN106
  • Caserta Squash-SKU: SSQ138
  • Rouge Vif D’ Etampes Pumpkin-SKU: SQ118
  • Boston Marrow Squash-SKU: SQ221
  • Brandywine Tomato-SKU: TK115
  • Zucchini-Lungo Bianco Squash-SKU: SSQ119

Happy gardening (or at least thinking of gardening if you’re still dealing with snow on the ground like we are)!