Basil gone to seed? Time to make basil pesto!


As the weather cools down, sweet basil begins to go to flower and seed – eventually dying off over winter (in cool and temperate regions of Australia).

basil flowers, basil pesto

Before the delicious leaves brown off and die, NOW is the time to make basil pesto. Here’s how I make mine…..

1) Pick your basil leaves (tender stems are fine too)! Try not to squash or bruise the leaves, it releases their flavour….and you want the flavour in your pesto!

The chillis don't make it into my pesto....but there is no reason you couldn't make your pesto a bit firey!

The chillis don’t make it into my pesto….but there is no reason you couldn’t make your pesto a bit firey!

2) Some people swear that you should never wash basil leaves, because it can also cause flavour loss. However if you do it gently and carefully, I honestly haven’t noticed a difference – and NOT washing your basil, I reckon can result in some unwanted added protein or grit in your pesto….eeww!

Lay the washed leaves on some tea towels to dry.

photo 4























3) Use a salad spinner to get rid of any excess water on the leaves, before cramming them into a food processor, with the chopping blade attached. **You might need to stuff the bowl full, turn it on to chop up the basil, then add more leaves, turn it on, add more leaves etc….to fit it all in!**

4) In my opinion there is no set “recipe” for basil pesto. I always add the same ingredients, but base the quantities on taste.

With the food processor running add:

* grated parmesan cheese  (I used about 120g for 2 bowls full of freshly picked basil leaves)

* 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed

* 100-200g of pine nuts, lightly dry toasted

* olive oil (as much as needed to make it form a nice spreadable paste)

* salt & pepper to taste.

5) Once you are happy with the flavour, spoon the mix into sterilised jars, leaving 1cm of space so you can top the pesto with a layer of olive oil. This layer of olive oil stops the pesto from browning. Store in the fridge until you are ready to use!

**Every time you take a spoonful or 2 out of the jar, smooth down the surface of the pesto and re-cover with about 1cm of olive oil. This keeps the air out, which causes your pesto to brown**

basil pesto

Ta dah! Here is the finished product, I know a lot of basil doesn’t go a long way….but homemade pesto has an REALLY intense flavour. (NOTE: the pesto in the plastic tub was for using that night on homemade pizza…..but normally store it in glass jars!) Enjoy 🙂





About the author

In 2003 I completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at The University of Melbourne. And I am experienced at gardening in all conditions, having lived – and gardened – on a small farm, in tiny apartments, in crowded share houses and on your average suburban house block. I now work full time in the horticulture industry and I’m a presenter on The Garden Gurus, channel 9. I would like to show, particularly the younger generations, that sustainable gardening, and growing at least some of the food you eat – is possible no matter where you live!

5 Responses

  1. Karley

    My basil pesto tasted ‘grassy’ like the leaves were bruised – I thought maybe the blade wasn’t sharp enough on my food processor but I have seen people use a mortar and pestle so it can’t be that – any tips? Maybe leaves were still too wet? hmmmmm………

    • Chloe

      Hi there, Mmm grassy….not nice! Perhaps it needs a bit more salt? Also I’ve noticed that my pesto tastes better after it has sat for a few days in the fridge after making it. Other option would to try cooking with it – eg. a cream based pasta sauce? You might find the heat/cooking changes the taste?

  2. Colin

    Although a food processor is convenient, I reckon the flavour is *much* better if you use a pestle & mortar.

    It’s like the difference between chopping basil with a knife and shredding the leaves by hand – the crushing really helps to release more flavour.

  3. Marian

    Hi Chloe
    Would it be ok to use the green seed heads when making basil pesto. My basil has all gone to seed as I have been putting off making pesto due to time involved.


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