‘Pesto Party’ Basil-Nutritious Flavor Powerhouse

 

‘Pesto Party’ Basil from Burpee
Whipping up pesto

A highly fragrant plant, Basil’s leaves are used as a seasoning herb for all different types of foods and is a major component of my favorite flavor – pesto. Pesto, a mixture of basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese, is a versatile mixture that can enhance breads, pastas, and even meats. Try my recipe for African Blue Basil. 

Whipping up a batch of pesto, I always like to have some growing Basil plants on hand, but it can be hard to keep alive indoors. And outdoors my Basil gets disfigured with Basil Mildew which makes it inedible. I had almost given up growing it and instead was buying the hydroponic plants at the grocery store.

Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese, copper, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), and vitamin C; and a good source of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. I had no idea!

Basil mildew will disfigure the entire plant quickly

I was delighted to find ‘Pesto Party’ from Burpee which is very resistant to the dreaded mildew.  Where has this Basil been all my life? ‘Party Pesto’ grew nicely into a mounded plant for me and is extremely slow to flower. As an experienced Basil grower knows, you don’t want the herb to flower as it changes the taste (bitter)and it will slowly decline. The inevitable mildew finally appeared in October on ‘Pesto Party’, when most of my plants were slowing down. I had gotten an entire season of harvest from my plant and my moneys worth.

I love Pesto! And with the new ‘Pesto Party’ Basil from Burpee I can make unlimited pesto all summer long. Burpee describes it this way;

Pesto Party’ is the latest-flowering basil from seed, letting you enjoy a preponderance of aromatic fresh-picked leaves deep into the season. Basking prettily in your favorite patio container, well-branching plants produce a continuing flourish of fragrant leaves infused with sweet Italian basil flavor. Late-to-bolt plants are paragons of tolerance to downy mildew—no other basil comes close.

I have to agree with that description- no other basil comes close. And growing it in containers right outside my kitchen door was a perfect solution for this mounding compact plant. Available by seeds or plants from Burpee, I received three plants in the spring and ate off of those plants all summer.

Purple Basil and Cinnamon and Anise flavored Basils aren’t as susceptible to Mildew
The mildew starts with yellowing of the foliage, progressing to blotching of the leaves

Downy mildew of basil is a relatively new, destructive disease that appears to be here to stay. First appearing in the U.S. in 2007, it appeared earlier in Europe. Basil is the leading culinary herb in the U.S. and it is decimating basil crops here. The pathogen can readily spread easily via wind-dispersed spores that it produces abundantly. This is likely the primary way it has spread throughout the eastern USA every summer since 2008.

Requiring a full sun location and well draining soil, easily grown in a container on a back deck or patio, ‘Pesto Party’ is on my short list for next year.

An added benefit of ‘Pesto Party’ is the slowness of bolting into flower

Edible Flower Palette

Edible flowers are frequently for sale at farmer’s markets but most people are hesitant to take the plunge and actually use them in cooking.

Variety of edible flowers from the garden

Garnishes – yes, but actually eating flowers??? For most people that is a different story. But flowers can add a lot to the flavor as well as  appeal of a dish.  Go to Squash Blossom Latkes  to see what you can do with squash blossoms. Also, go to African Blue Basil to check out this great flower that makes a wonderful pesto. All basil flowers are edible.

African Blue Basil makes a great pesto
African Blue Basil makes a great pesto

Edible flowers definitely add taste and flavor to a dish.  Bean blossoms actually have a beany flavor.  Nasturtiums, one of my favorites, have a peppery flavor similar to watercress, and their pickled buds can be substituted for more expensive capers. True blue borage tastes like cucumber, and  pansies have a lettuce like taste. For a crisp butter crunch lettuce taste, try daylilies. Maybe that is why deer like daylilies so much.

Collecting edible blossoms from the garden
Collecting edible blossoms from the garden

 

Top 20 Edible Flowers

From Sugarandcharm.com


Nasturtium

  • Angelica
  • Anise Hyssop
  • Bachelor’s Button *
  • Bee Balm
  • Calendula/Marigold
  • Carnations
  • Chamomile *
  • Chervil
  • Pansy
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Clover
  • Dandelion * {eating ‘em puts a whole new spin on ‘weeding’}
  • Fuchsia
  • Gladiolus *
  • Hibiscus
  • Impatiens
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Lilac

“Only the petals of these composite flowers are edible. The pollen of composite flowers is highly allergenic and may cause reactions in sensitive individuals. Sufferers of asthma, ragweed, and hayfever should not consume composite flowers, and may have extreme allergies to ingesting any flowers at all.” ~ Source HomeCooking/About.com

 

Edible blossoms-borage, nasturtium and chives, pansy, gladiolus, cardinal basil, daylily, pansy
Edible blossoms-borage, nasturtium and chives, pansy, gladiolus, cardinal basil, daylily, pansy

 

Uses

Beautiful cake decorated with roses and borage blossoms, made by Maria Springer of http://www.majaskitchen.com/
Beautiful cake decorated with roses and borage blossoms, made by Maria Springer of http://www.majaskitchen.com/

Edible flowers as a garnish make any dish look special on your table, but be sure the flavor of the flower compliments the dish. Here are a few ideas to beautify your recipes and perk up your taste buds:

  • Place a colorful gladiolus or hibiscus flower (remove the stamen and pistil) in a clear glass bowl and fill with your favorite dip.
  • Sprinkle edible flowers in your green  and fruit salads for a splash of color and taste.
  • Make edible flower ice cubes. Go to http://diana212m.blogspot.com/2013/02/jazzy-take-on-water.html 

    Ice cubes with edible flowers

  • Use in flavored oils or vinegars, like chive blossoms in vinegar which gives it a pretty pink  blush color.
  • You can use them in salads, teas, garnishes, ice creams, etc. Lavender ice cream anyone?? It is delicious! 

     

    The ultimate edible flower-lavender
    The ultimate edible flower-lavender

Never use non-edible flowers in your food as guests will think that they can eat it. Poisonous flowers abound in your garden and be careful what you use!

When you pick your blossoms, keep them fresh by rolling up in a moist paper towel and keep in the refrigerator no more than a few days before using.

Be creative!

Roll the blossoms in a moist paper towel and store in the refrigerator