I love basil, and I love pesto sauce. I make a lot of it every summer and freeze it. But just last summer I learned something about basil that increased my harvest, and my pesto stash, by a lot: you are supposed to prune basil!
I used to think that I had to harvest it all right before it flowered, and then that was the end. But no. Somehow, somewhere online, I saw a video that showed a woman pruning her basil back to two leaf nodes. She did this several times during the summer, and after each harvest, the basil put out new growth. I found out that this works brilliantly.
So, here is the basil before I pruned it:
And here it is after I pruned it back to two leaf nodes. (A node is where one or more leaves sticks out from the stalk.)
YOu can see that I left a lot of leaves on the plant. It has put out even more leaves in the week or so since I pruned it.
My basil pesto recipe has gotten very simple: I put some garlic and salt in the blender, blend it a bit, add some olive oil, add some basil leaves, add enough olive oil to make the leaves blendable, and salt to taste. That's it. No pine nuts, no parmesan. This is cheap, vegan pesto. Cheese can be added later to any dish you add the pesto to. It doesn't have to be fancy and contain expensive ingredients to be really, really good.
I have found out that pesto makes a good spread for toast. I guess this would be a kind of bruschetta in Italy.
I also cut some of the stalks of basil long so that I could tie them together with rubber bands and dry them, hanging upside down in the closet, for dried basil leaves.