Dirty Business: First Basil Harvest

Mrs. Butcher's typical artistic flair can be seen here.

Once upon a time, Mrs. Butcher would always harvest the basil in one fell swoop.  We would yank the plants and get enough pesto out of them to last us through most of the year.  Then, last year, she decided to try something radical:  not pulling the basil plants, but instead just cutting off the most mature stems and letting the plants regenerate for another harvest.  She did three different harvests last year and we’re still working through last year’s pesto even after giving away probably 25% of what we had in the freezer.  So, now we have a new practice.

Here’s what the basil bed looked like before she went to town on it:

The plastic sheet covers the cage in order to diffuse the sunlight so the leaves don’t burn.  When it rains, I pull the sheet back so the plants can drink it all up.  Here’s what the bed looks like after the first cutting:

As you can see, she cut a little more than half from the plants, leaving enough for them to be able to grow more branches and more of that sweet, sweet basil.

Now, up until this year, we would also have tons of caprese salads once the tomatoes came into season (actually, last year, I went full tilt into Ellie’s Panzanella Caprese Salad recipe), but Mrs. Butcher has stopped eating raw tomatoes so I won’t be needing as many whole leaves to work with this year (if you think I’m going to stop eating caprese salad just because Mrs. Butcher did, you can forget it).  That means, even more pesto! 

Prepping the pesto itself is a fairly simple, if tedious, affair.  First, she snips the leaves off the stalks (avoiding the leaf stems), then she throws them into a blender with some of our good olive oil, whole home-grown garlic cloves (from last year), raw piñon, and salt (all measurements to taste). 

Once everything is blended thoroughly, then she fills a Ziploc bag with one corner snipped off and closed with a clothespin.

Then she squeezes the pesto into ice cube trays that we use specifically for this purpose (because you’ll never get the taste out of them) and then those trays go into the freezer.  She got just shy of three full trays with this first harvest.

Once the cubes are completely frozen, we pop the cubes out and fill up freezer bags for air-tight storage.  This way, we’re able to use the pesto any way we need to.  Most often, we use the pesto cubes with some pasta and olive oil when we want dinner but don’t want to make it a big affair.

The best part?  The whole house smells like pesto for several days.

I’ll update you as she makes successive harvests, so we can all see how many rounds we get this year.

About butcherbakertoiletrymaker 557 Articles
When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.


  1. Mrs Butcher is obviously very smart. Listen when she says you need a wood burning stove. 

      • @butcherbakertoiletrymaker We had a wood stove in our last house and I loved it. We heated the entire house with it.  They’re much more efficient than a regular fireplace which is what we have now. But I insist on having one or the other in any house I live in. I’m solidly with Mrs Butcher on this one!

        • “more efficient than a regular fireplace” is such a low bar to clear, you’re going to need a shovel…

  2. I can smell the fresh basil through the Interwebs page. Mmmmm.

  3. Love basil!  I was just chopping off leaves but then our plant started growing straight up.  Then I started cutting off the tops and now it is a little more bushy.  I would love to freeze some basil but my wife has so many damn strawberries in the freezer I have no space! 

    • Next year, I’m hoping to have a freezer full of strawberries and a shelf full of preserves.  Any pointers for strawberry harvesting?

      • Have kids that like eating strawberries so you don’t have to do it!  Slug Death is your friend.  We just go out every day or so when they start turning ripe.  It usually coincides with a trip so we convince people to come pick all they want but water the yard while they are picking.  Pretty good deal!

      • Psst! Strawberry basil ice cream is divine. 

  4. Thanks for the caprese shutout. And you didn’t even bust my chops for using walnuts in the pesto I make! Looks delicious and the making/storage is ingenious. 

    • You fancy people with your pesto with nuts in it!

      Some of us are super lazy and just do basil, olive oil, garlic, and pepper and salt. 

      • lol, I put sunflower seeds and pepitos in my pesto because I always have them in the house. I’m too cheap to buy pine nuts!

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