Middle Tennessee experienced an extremely mild summer this year. Many nights the thermometer dropped down into the 60’s and our rain gauges were forever full! With weather like this, there was no wonder I battled the rootworm on my corn and green tomatoes well into July. Are we in zone 6 or zone 7? Each summer brings a little bit of a different answer. Daddy says the earth has a way of recycling itself. While I would agree that the planet will be here well after we are all dead and gone, what will it look like? I don’t know, but I hope it will have beauty all its own.
This weekend swallowtail butterflies in the making were chowing down. These little caterpillars just love fennel. Luckily, Pank and I spied them in time to cut seed heads for sausage making, pasta sauces and pickles. I didn’t have the heart to starve them out. I left plenty for their final summer feast before overwintering in their chrysalis.
Just like the caterpillars are bedding down for witner, it is time for us to start planning for our fall and winter crops. I will clean and turn the beds in preparation for planting. Pank is in charge of the tilling. I just love our happy hour sitting in the gardens waiting for things to grow. Although,we will have to work around the basil as it seems to never die. It grows in abundance. My friend, Kathryn Mitchell Johnson shares a ton of great recipes, country music pairings and just good sense on her blog Lady Smokey. Grant, her husband, made the freshest Cole slaw incorporating the basil bounty last time we were at their house. We always enjoy our time with them! Click here to get the recipe.
Back to happy hour, one of the ways I have preserved all that basil is simple syrup. I then froze them into ice cubes for summer inspired cocktails well after the basil is gone.
To Make the Simple Syrup:
Boil one part raw sugar to 3 parts distilled water. Turn off heat and add a small bunch of basil to steep. Strain and pour into Mason jar and refrigerate.
Basil Gin Fizz
1oz lime juice
1 tbsp. basil simple syrup
4oz soda water
Shake gin, juice and syrup with ice. Strain over ice and stir in soda.
Another way to use up the basil is to make pesto. It can then be frozen or canned for the winter. I spread some fresh on a pizza for supper the other night.
2 cups of fresh basil
2 cloves of garlic
¼ cup of toasted pumpkin seeds (pine nuts are the traditional nut/seed, but you can used just about any you like.)
¼ grated Grana Padano Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is the traditional cheese. Again, get as creative with your cheese choice.)
¾ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (NO SUBSTITUTION)
Salt and pepper
Using a food mill or food processor blend basil, garlic and seeds/nuts until the consistency of paste. Gradually stir in cheese. Stream olive oil until it becomes a thick emulsion. Salt and pepper to taste.
…now, what kind of greens and root vegetables shall I plant?!?