This year is proving to be another very good year for Basil (two in a row). Basil can be difficult to get started in a Belgium spring with mixed weather conditions and cold nights. Basil does not like cold or damp conditions. However, our recent heatwave and the continuing warmth means another excellent year for Basil.
It is not too late to get some Basil started. If the general aim is to produce leaves for salad use and then a couple of decent harvests for pesto then it is worth starting seed in small pots and potting up small groups of plants to larger pots as the plants grow. Basil actually grows better when slightly constrained in smaller pots.
How much to take. There is no set rule for harvesting Basil. Here the plants are used for occasional leaves and then two or three times each season for a large batch to make pesto. Cut from the top. Follow a stem down to above a joint and cut there with scissors. Take about one third of the plant from the top. Take occasional leaves from the bottom.
Making pesto. Pesto is simple to make using olive oil, pine nuts, a good hard cheese (parmesan), garlic and lots of leaves. There are many fancy recipes on line but a basic pesto for general use can be made up in 20 minutes. It is helpful to find a young person who loves pesto to do the mixing.
The finished jars will keep for several weeks in the fridge. The contents are topped off with a layer of olive oil. These are used by the spoonful with most pasta and spaghetti dishes, added at the end of cooking. The basil plants in the garden will produce a further two harvests of this quantity this summer ensuring a reasonable supply of pesto for the kitchen this year.