Monday, May 25, 2020

Lime basil pesto

Lime basil seedlings in my New Zealand
spinach (Tetragonia tetragoniodes) rows.

Lime basil loves Florida's 
hot, wet summers!

Lime basil (Ocimum americanum) is native to Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, not the Americas, despite its species epithet. It has a strong citrus odor and a cross between lime basil and sweet basil (O.basilicum) is known as lemon basil.

Sweet basil, which is the traditional basil for Italian cooking including pesto, is susceptible to fungal diseases once the wet season begins here in Florida.

So, a number of years ago, I bought some lime basil seed from Burpee on the advice that it was more heat tolerant. It was so prolific that it has been self seeding in my edible beds ever since.  Read my previous Lime basil article for more information.

This year I transplanted the seedlings from my okra and New Zealand spinach beds to its own row, so I could keep those crops weeded and have a good basil crop as well.

This is the story from rogue seedlings to pesto.

I created a 16" wide row next to the garage for the lime basil seedlings. Nine days after the top photo, the seedlings now had their first true leaves and the cotyledon seed leaves had grown longer stems.

On the first day of transplanting, I'd planted the seedlings three wide on one side of the row, which you can see here. On the second day, I did the same thing on the opposite side of the row with about five inches of space between them. I created a slight swale in the middle of that row which allowed for extra rain barrel water to sit, so the soil would be truly dampened so the seedlings could send down roots. Yes, the spacing was tight, but it served my needs for this crop.

24 days after the second planting, the seedling have grown. 

Harvest time!

Twelve days later, the basil is ready for the first harvest. The basil had begun to bloom.

Once a basil stem produces flowers, foliage production stops on that stem, the stem becomes woody, and essential oil production declines. So in order to have the most flavorful pesto, it was time to harvest.

I chopped all the basil plants at about three inches from the ground. This way there are enough side sprouts left at the bottom of the stems so in another few weeks, I'll have another harvest. For the pesto, I also harvested several other ingredients from the garden: Greek oregano, rosemary, garlic chives, and some dollarweed. 


Here are the ingredients lined up next to the food processor. What was different ths time was instead of chopped garlic from the store, I used bulblets that I'd previously harvested from my meadow garlic (Allium canadense). I collect them to reduce their weediness in my edible bed areas. 

My pesto differs from the traditional Italian pesto, in that the ingredients vary depending upon the harvest and what's on hand and also that it's lightened by some extent by the addition of yogurt and mayonnaise. Also, I use sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts, since I usually have them on hand. It's not the same as traditional pesto, but is delicious and can be used in similar ways.

Yummy pesto!
Pesto ingredieants: (This time around...)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: about a cup--enough to keep it semi-liquid
- The leaves and buds from an armful of basil: about 3 cups
- Greek oregano: about 30 leaves
- Rosemary: about 30 leaves
- Garlic chives: about 20 leaves
- Dollarweed: about 20 leaves
- Parmesan cheese: 2/3 of a cup
- Horseradish: 1 heaping tablespoon
- Meadow garlic bulblets: 2/3 of a cup
- Roasted sunflower seeds: 1 cup
- Olive oil mayonnaise: 1/2 cup
- Plain non-fat yogurt: 1/2 cup

Blend in the food processor to the desired creaminess. Mine has a bit of roughness. This produced 5 cups of pesto. I froze three 1-cup containers so we can have pesto in the future.

Just for fun, here's a link to an article that includes a pesto recipe with no basil. (Read to the end: it starts with a beautiful meadow.)
A few hours later, the stubs of the basil had perked up and looked like they were already starting to grow! And I found two Malabar spinach vines at one end of the basil bed. This is another crop that readily reseeds. I'll install a tomato cage to act as a trellis for this vining crop.

We love cooking to the harvest. I hope you are enjoying your harvests, too.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt


  1. I would love to try some seeds Ginny, I made pesto from our native Wild Sweet Basil last year and it was incredible!! I have not hear if this one before!

  2. I bought my original seeds from Burpee.