"Downy mildew" has been seen in Concord over at least the past three weeks in a
variety of widespread locations for the first time ever. While there
were some small areas impacted last year, it has been found to be much
more troublesome this year.
Here are some links about it how to identify the problem, plus info on
harvesting and disposing of the infected plants. (Photo at bottom: my harvest from my East Quarter Farm plot; photos at right here and right below: infected leaves top and bottom.)
Here I'm going to talk about what I do with a tidal wave of fresh basil -- in some ways, a GOOD "problem" to have, because I'm not sure in my book that it's possible to actually have "too much" basil. It's to me it's part of the very best of the summer. And to put some by to eat through the year is just my way of laughing at the cold weather.
I don't think fresh basil is worth drying. It just loses too much in translation. Drying is the very last thing I'd think of doing with it. Freezing is the best approach in my opinion, with the full and fresh taste being well preserved through this method. Here's how I've been doing it for about 20 years. Here, chopped basil is coated in olive oil to prevent freezer burn and to make it easier to cut apart when partly frozen.
Fresh basil does not keep well in or out of the refrigerator -- it's best to process the leaves the very day they are picked.
1. Harvest the basil, and stem the leaves by pinching them off the stems between thumb and forefinger.
2. Toss the leaves in the food processor or blender, about a cup at a time. Add 1-2 tablespoons of good olive oil for each fairly solid cup of fresh, unchopped leaves. Pulse the machine on and off until the leaves are fairly well covered with oil -- feel free to add additional 1-cup portions of leaves at this point until your machine doesn't seem to want to mix them well. Then process further until well chopped, but not made into a paste.
3. Spoon the mixture into small containers (1/4 to 1 cup total) with tight-fitting lids. DO NOT PACK DOWN THE LEAVES TIGHT. They should be somewhat loose, or it will be difficult to use just portions of your supply as needed -- you'll have to defrost the whole container and use it right away if they're packed tightly. Some folks like to pack and freeze the chopped basil in ice cube trays,
popping out the solid cubes and putting them in a plastic bag or
container for easier handling frozen. I just am never sure what to do with the fragrant, oily ice cube trays afterwards.
A container of freshly chopped basil can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days; spoon out what you need as you cook. Or freeze the container(s) (you're going to label them, right?), taking one out of the freezer to sit on the counter for 10 minutes or so to defrost sufficiently for you to cut off the portion you'll need for cooking. Or put in the microwave for 5-8 seconds on high, which should allow you to slice off what you need.
Keep in mind that fresh basil (fresh or frozen) really is best eaten uncooked or minimally cooked. It's bright flavors are best retained with the least amount of exposure to heat.
For pesto lovers, you can use the defrosted, chopped basil in your favorite pesto recipe; just reduce the amount of olive oil called for in the recipe since there's some already in your frozen mix.