I love basil. Its flavor really only pops when it’s just off the plant—and boy, does it pop. Sweet, Italian, lemon, lime, Thai, purple—there are so many options, all with a slightly different taste. Unfortunately, once the garden winds down, that fresh taste is difficult to find, particularly if your house, like mine, lacks a sunny windowsill. Dried basil is a kitchen staple off-season, but it lacks the full summer flavor.
That’s where pesto comes in. Its texture and flavor don’t match the basil leaf you pinch off the stem and slip into your mouth while you harvest, but it will remind you of that leaf when you drop a cube into a dish midwinter. I prefer to save my basil as a pesto base—minus the pine nuts and Parmesan—so that it’s versatile. The same technique lets you make pesto with other ingredients, such as pea shoots and garlic scapes. Learn to make Basil Pesto Base and Spring Pesto with Pea Shoots