Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Night Photos: Trimming Basil and Tomatoes (2010 Garden Update #8)

basil leaves in bucketThis has been a trimming week in the garden. First I trimmed my basil plants and ended up with a big bucket of basil, which I used to make Basil Lemon Pesto (recipe coming.) If you trim the basil plants, they bush out and produce much more basil. If I get more basil than I can use from a trimming, I just freeze the basil to use in soup and pasta sauce during the winter.

This is how the basil plants looked after they were trimmed, so you can tell they were pretty bushy before trimming!

I also trim my tomato plants a few times every gardening season. Once a branch gets two bunches of tomatoes, I snip it off above the second bunch, and of course the branches that don't have any tomatoes also get trimmed. Trimming makes the tomatoes ripen more quickly and produce bigger fruit. If you want to read more, here's a good post about Pruning Tomatoes from Fine Gardening.

Thanks to Nate, I grew a few tomatoes from seeds this year for the very first time. A late-season snowstorm killed some of the plants, but I still have three that are flourishing, and it looks like I'm getting some Berkeley Tie-Dye Tomatoes. (Thanks again Nate!)

This year I'm growing these little Thai eggplants called Kermit eggplant for the first time. (This is a super close-up photo, so this little guy is only a few inches wide so far.)

For a few years now I've been growing cucumber plants inside some of my old tomato cages. The cages keep the cukes up off the ground and make it easy to spot them. I'm starting to get 1-2 cucumbers every couple of days now. (Yaay, Greek Salad!)

I also cut a nice big bucket of kale this week, and after looking at quite a few recipes, I think this one is the Raw Kale Salad I want to try first.

So that's what's been going on in my garden this week. What's growing at your house?

(If you want to see other garden updates from this year, you can click the label 2010 Garden Updates.)
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  1. I have big-time basil envy. The rabbits got every bit of basil the Japanese beetles left behind. So I'll have to bookmark your lemon pesto recipe for next summer. Ah, well, the joys of gardening...

  2. Oh Lydia, I wish I could just run over to your house and bring you some basil!

  3. Can't ever have too much basil! I have been putting fresh kale in my morning smoothies. Hubby has no clue!

  4. Jane, I like the idea of sneaking a little kale into a smoothie!

  5. I'm trimming my basil tomorrow. I try to do it at the first of each month through the summer!

  6. My basil is getting a little leggy too. Time for a sheering!
    Did you see my peach-basil sangria? It is a friday's favorite for sure.

  7. Pam, great idea to do it at the first of every month. (You're my kind of woman, I can tell!)

    Sandi, wow!! The Peach-Basil Sangria looks amazing.

  8. Wow--I never trim or prune my tomatoes. I just put 'em in huge cages and let them go wild--I might top them this year, in order to force early ripening. Interesting article Kalyn--thanks for sharing it.

  9. Kalyn, that is a super idea to grow cucumbers in a tomato cage! Every year I have a few cukes that hide under leaves, and I don't spot them until they are HUGE! I can see that they would be easier to find in the cage. Next year I am doing this! Thanks!

  10. I knew that about basil, but I didn't know you should prune your tomatoes! I'm new to gardening veggies, and have only a few tomato plants, but am proud to say there are several tomatoes out there! Thanks for this, going to check out that pruning article :)

  11. Susan, trimming the ends of those branches will ripe your tomatoes much more quickly. Have fun with it!

    Cindi, I love have the cucumbers in tomato cages so I can find them because I know exactly what you mean about how they like to hide under the leaves.

    Amanda, pruning the tomatoes will make quite a difference; glad I could let you know that trick!

  12. My first basil plant was doing well until we went on vacation. We moved the whole planter to the shade and watered it well before we left, but it still suffered greatly. For a while, it seemed to come back, but then died. Will try again next year. Yours looks fabulous, Kalyn.

    I didn't know about pruning tomatoes. Makes sense though.

    The cage idea is very neat for cucumbers. Will have to tell my parents about that one. They only have a few plants so they can keep up well though.

    I agree with Jane on kale in smoothies. It really is great in them and nobody has to know. ;-)

    That eggplant is neat.

    Not really gardening here, but I do enjoy these posts very much, Kalyn. :-)


  13. Shirley, thanks! (Good to know I am not boring people to death with my gardening obsession!)

  14. Nice harvest Kalyn. Time for a little preserving?

    I just froze some basil. pureed with garlic and olive oil.

    Made a one pound batch of herb butter and froze it in four 1/2 pint jars to keep the fresh flavors of summer alive during the colder months ahead. (Pack the jars, smooth the butter top, lightly press plastic wrap across the surface, out the lid on, label and freeze. The plastic wrap on the butter surface extends the life of the frozen butter by keep air off of it.)

    Have a couple of jars of refrigerator pickles and processing some pickled beets too.

    Do you ever chop, blanch and freeze kale?

  15. CJ, sounds like you're very ambitious! I do freezer basil and freezer other herbs every year, also slow-roast tomatoes and freeze them and freeze tomato sauce. Other than that, I haven't done much with garden produce. (I usually give a lot of my garden stuff away, which is also fun!)

  16. such beautiful photos and so many nice things you have growing there! i got a basil envy too looking at that bucket of basil :) thanks for the tips about pruning tomatoes, i was wondering what i should do with my cherry tomatoes plant which has grown a lot.

  17. PJ, you definitely won't regret if it you prune your cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes will get ripe so much sooner!

  18. Kalyn, my sweet basil is quite tall and I have cut some down. Should I cut the whole plant right back to the soil?

  19. If I really want to trim it, I leave just a few sets of leaves on the stem, but be sure to leave some leaves.

  20. Kalyn, I love your blog, especially all your pics of your garden. Thank you for sharing all your recipes. Here is one of my favorites for fresh basil. This is so refreshing in the summer.

    Basil Lime syrup
    ¾ c sugar
    Zest of lime, removed in strips with a veggie peeler
    ½ c fresh lime juice
    ¼ c water
    1 c loosely packed fresh basil
    Bring sugar, zest, juice and water to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; add basil and let syrup stand, uncovered for15 minutes.
    Strain if desired.
    Use 2 T syrup w/ sparkling water.
    Can substitute mint for basil.

    Enjoy, Beth

  21. Thanks Beth. I wouldn't make it with the sugar, but maybe you could use Splenda instead, will give it a try. It does sound good with the sparkling water!

  22. I love your tips, Kalyn. It really helps novice gardeners like me. I need to trim my basil and make pesto. If we ever get any tomatoes I'll trim them too. I'm hoping for a late crop. :)

  23. Amy, so glad to hear that my tips are useful for you. I'm not an expert, but I have been growing a garden for quite a few years now so hopefully I've learned a few things!

  24. On my next life, I want to be a good gardener.

    In this life, I'm afraid there's no hope for me.... :-(

    (you would shed tears if I sent you a photo of my basil and the three tomato plants)

  25. Sally, don't give up. There's a lot to learn about gardening re: location, soil conditions, watering, fertilizing, etc. Just keep trying.

  26. Yikes - I'm a bad mother to my basil and my tomatoes... Not nearly enough pruning! Very envious of your beautiful kale!

  27. Update on the basil syrup. Tried it last night using Splenda granulated. Tasted wonderful. Great with plain seltzer water. Now its a South Beach recipe!

  28. Jeanne, the pruning will make quite a difference; give it a try!

    Beth, thanks for that! I must try it myself, I have a Penguin to make the soda water so it would be a great summer drink for me!

  29. Yay! I hope those BTD tomatoes taste as good as the ones you had at Chez Panisse.

  30. Nate, me too! I think I'm still a few weeks away from having a ripe one, but I'll report on it when one gets ripe!

  31. Yummy!
    I have a small windowsill herb thingy..I have had basil and chives so far. Oh and some dill. mmmm

    I have several tomato plants on my patio, that have given me lots of tiny cherry tomatoes. I love them!
    Just the happy feeling being able to grow something is awesome!
    I need to remember to trim my plants though..never thought of that :)

  32. Sugar sounds like you're having fun growing things. Trimming will make quite a difference, especially on the herbs!

  33. I can't thank you enough for the basil-freezing instructions. My garden is just bursting with basil and after trimming it this morning I found your method. It was so great to fill those little tupperwares with basil for the winter. Thanks!!

  34. Patrice, you're so welcome! Hope you enjoy that basil all winter long.

  35. I had no idea I had to prune the basil! Is it too late once it begins to flower to do so? I have more than I could eat on my own right now, so I will freeze some too. Can you freeze mint?

  36. Crystal, you can definitely trim the basil even though it's started to flower. Trim the flowering part off first, and throw it away. Then trim the stem down lower and freeze or use that basil. I have frozen mint too, using the same method I use for freezing basil, but I will say I find the frozen mint a lot less useful in cooking than the frozen basil.


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