Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Pre-Pesto and Who Else Loves Sunflowers.

Dear Folks,

The basil is going gang-busters in the garden and I had some left over from cutting for the farmers market.  I kept meaning to make up a batch of pre-pesto and just got side-tracked until yesterday.

So, what is pre-pesto?

Basil (or other herb) blended with oil of choice and frozen for later use.

Many, many years ago I read of a restaurant which had their own gardens and always wound up with herbs left over at the end of the day.  They started making 'pre-pesto's with either single herbs or combinations and stored them in the refrigerator for later use.  They hit on a wonderful always ready condiment which could be finished as traditional pesto -- add garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan Cheese -- OR used as an addition to any dish they were preparing.  They went further an came up with non-traditional combinations such as rosemary and walnut oil.

In the collage, I show a large batch of fresh leaves and tender stems*.  I ground them down in my small food processor with avocado oil and the result was an 8 ounce jar, topped with a thin layer of more oil to keep oxygen out.  I freeze this and because of the oil in the paste I can scoop out what I need, tamp back down in the jar and put back in the freezer.

* The tender stems and flowers can all be used.  To find the tender point, use the asparagus break method.  Bend the stem and the round point is the where you cut, keeping the tender parts and either storing the more woody stems for stock and soup making or compost.

I hope you find some fun combinations of herbs and oils for use from your garden bounty.

I LOVE SUNFLOWER!  And so do some our garden "neighbors."

Over the years we have seen the Lesser Goldfinches perform their acrobatics, the Goldfinches and sparrows, and now the Peach Faced Lovebirds!

We have seen them occasionally in the gardens, but they never stay long, until this variety of sunflower attracted them.  Probably what helped in their loving it is that it is more sturdy (except we had to prop up with boards from the rains loosening the soil around their natural shallow roots) and with larger seeds.  The variety is "Lemon Queen" and I love it.  Obviously so do this attractive visitor whom we call the "Cheepy Guy" for their parakeet type call.

Peach Faced are a non-native escapee from 30-40 years ago.  The Arizona Fish and Game studied their impact on native species and determined they pose no threat and so they have continued to live and reproduce valley wide.

Their colors, including their blue back, which you can't see in this picture, remind me of the dwarf Bird of Paradise which blooms in my front yard.  So pretty!

They often nest in palm trees.

Wikipedia on the Peach Faced Love Birds.

 In The Garden:

This week I will start putting in the first successive planting of sugar peas, carrots, beets and radishes, to get a jump start on the fall crops.  I will seed in every 2-3 weeks in 1-2 foot sections at a time, to keep the goodies coming.

I hope you have a wonderful week in your garden and kitchen,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


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