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Five Fun Ways to Use Basil

A bed of basil varieties in bloom.
We're at the height of the basil season. As long as basil gets enough water, and you remember to keep the flower stalks pruned back (unlike in the photo above where all of the basils are in full bloom) then  your plants will be producing non-stop. The more you prune, the better the flavor. But have you run out of things to do with your basil? Of course you are probably making lots of pesto and freezing it for winter (my recipe for fool-proof frozen pesto is on this page).
Basil, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, nuts - regular pesto.

Here are 5 great exciting ways of using basil you may not have tried yet.
Dip a big pile of assorted basil cuttings in water and lay on the grill.

1 - Lemon-Basil Grilled Shrimp. 
Cut a big, double-handful of lemon or lime basil, as in the photo above. Dip it in plain water and lay the basil on a medium-hot barbecue grill. Spread 2 or 3 dozen raw shrimp over the basil, pull down the barbecue lid if you wish, and steam the shrimp for 60 - 90 seconds. Flip the shrimp over and give them another minute. The lemon basil flavor will be steamed into shrimp, giving it wonderful flavor.
Basil Lemon Ice Cream

2 - Nutty Basil Lemon Ice Cream
Karen Keb, editor of The Heirloom Gardener magazine told me about making homemade ice cream with basil this past week. She used sweet basil, pine nuts and lemon, and sounds so good I have to make some, too! Here's the link to her recipe, which she posted on the Mother Earth News website. Thanks, Karen, for sharing your recipe!

3 - Basil Pesto Burgers
Combine about 2 pounds of ground chuck with 1 medium onion, finely chopped, 1/4 cup basil pesto, salt and pepper and mix well. Form into burgers and cook on the grill. The pesto gives great flavor, you won't be sorry you did this! (This method works well with veggie-burgers, too).

4 - Banana-Basil Smoothie
Use any kind of basil for this - I like Thai, but lemon, sweet, Genovese, Greek Columnar, Purple Ruffles, it doesn't matter, they all work just fine. In a blender, put 1 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon honey, 7 or 8 basil leaves (or more, to taste) with 3 cups of milk. I add a few ice cubes, too. Blend it until smooth. For a milk-free smoothie, I use either pineapple or cran-raspberry juice instead of the milk.
Blackberry-Basil Sorbet
5 - Blackberry Basil Sorbet
I especially like Greek Columnar basil or Purple Ruffles for this recipe but any variety works just as well. (The recipe is from my book, Fabulous Herb and Flower Sorbets, on my website).
Begin with 3 cups of blackberry juice (or blueberry, etc.) Add 1/2 cup sugar, 6-8 fresh basil leaves, 1 cup of water and the freshly-squeezed juice of 1 lemon. Blend well in blender and chill the liquid for at least an hour. Pour into a sorbet maker and freeze until firm.
36 pages of herb and flower sorbet recipes.

There you have it, 5 ways of using up some of your excess summer basil you may not have considered.

Of course, there's always the old stand-by, plain basil pesto toasted on sourdough bread, too!

Fresh or frozen pesto toasted on sourdough bread, that's not too bad, either!


Watermelon Peach Avocado Salsa

Herb Shop porch, looking out on one part of the garden.
These two areas, above, are in and near the garden look and wonderfully cool, don't they? But like much of the U.S. today, it's sweltering hot. We've been above 100 degrees F. most of this week. Fireworks displays in most towns are cancelled due to fire dangers. It's bleak, pastures and lawns are just crispy sticks, ponds are dry. We're watering the garden here on a daily basis, trying to keep the plants alive and growing.

Here's hopefully a small bit of inspiration, a half watermelon filled with watermelon salsa. I made it to take to a picnic at our friends' house this evening. You might like to make this over the Independence Day holidays, too. Yes, it will look better surrounded with chips and other food, but I took the photo before I left for the party.
The flavors of sweet watermelon, crispy peppers, peaches and avocados go well together!
I'd like to say this recipe is from my book, Sensational Salsas from Apple to Zucchini, and I do have a really good watermelon salsa recipe there, but this one was inspired by the Avocado Association newsletter this week. I had to tinker with their recipe a bit to suit my tastes, so here's my revised recipe:

Watermelon, Peach and Avocado Salsa

1 half seedless watermelon, innards chopped and drained
2 whole avocados, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 peaches, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix and chill, then fill the scooped-out watermelon and take to the party with chips.

Muscadines growing on gazebo post.
The muscadines are ripe this week on the gazebo (some of the other varieties aren't ready yet). If you aren't familiar with muscadines, they're a Southern variety of grapes. Thirty three years ago when I moved here, our weather wouldn't have allowed muscadines to grow, but in that period of time, we have warmer winters and such plants thrive here. Muscadines do better in the Ozarks than many other grapes simply because they don't suffer from many of the grape diseases, fungus and the like. I never have to spray muscadines - I always had to spray regular grapes, and I like the flavor of these better. Muscadines have a lot more sugar, some varieties taste like a burst of grape jelly in your mouth!
If you'd like more salsa recipes to help you keep cool in this miserable heat, order my book, Sensational Salsas. It's full of my recipes for such things as Banana Salsa (it's a favorite in my salsa workshops!), Watermelon Salsa with Black Pepper, Cantaloupe Salsa and many, many more - yes, even one for Zucchini!

The Salsa book is on sale this month when you buy Easy Dips Using Herbs, too. Here's the link to my website.

Stay out of the heat if you can, drink plenty of liquids, move slow and be safe. Happy gardening!