Who does not like pesto? It is virtually impossible to dislike this simple puree of basil, garlic, oil and pine nuts. Pesto is a vivid part of my childhood; orzo and pesto was a staple dinner at the Pontarolo house. Similar to the 11/15/10 entry about sausage making, pesto is another family pastime. Each year for more years than I have been alive my folks get together with a few other couples and make fresh pesto. I am not sure if this was just an excuse to get hammered but I know that when it was my time to join in the tradition I was game for whatever; picking basil leaves, cleaning, peeling garlic, drinking wine, who cares we were making pesto. I soon learned that making the pesto was the simple part, the tact came to procuring your portion of the proverbial 'pesto pie'.
Arriving with an assortment of tupperware, glass pans, zip lock bags, ice cube trays, or vessels of any size, shape, or color, one couple/families goal continues to be to dupe the others out of mere ounces of the green gold. This includes simply ingesting as much of the concoction in the given evening to know that you, your fiefdom, gleaned more pesto than the next. Last year was a bumper crop for pesto, 4.5 GALLONS from Cheney Farms alone which I am happy to report was devoured over the year but this year the numbers did not come in. It was a meager year full of mistakes, poor farming, and general undesirable results however I produced more basil wood than anyone in Spokane County.
Basil is best grown by seed, sown in the ground when the temperature of the soil is at least 55. It was mid July and I believe my downfall was transplanting starts too early and realizing that I needed to sow supplemental seeds too late. Needless to say the yield was weak but there was a teaching/learning point; when the crop is small pick every single leaf regardless of color because apparently if you blanch all the basil it will retain the vibrant green color (this is true by the way but it does seem to convolute the process and ultimately yield less pesto, not recommended).
An additional pointer for making pesto is realizing that pine nuts are a pricey necessity. Somewhere there is a Paublo Escobar of the pine nut world counting his billions, but regardless of price it is key to use pine nuts; almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc are no replacement for a pine nut. If you know when you are going to be making pesto order the nuts online, you should not pay more than $10 per.