When Your Basil Plant Becomes a Basil Tree

I planted a couple of little basil leaves in a pot last summer, and with my help, this medium-sized plant managed to survive, if not quite thrive, indoors during the winter. Upon being moved outdoors and into a nice, large planter, the basil plant proceeded to explode to a size I never expected.

Suddenly I had an unprecedented basil surplus, and I needed to use some of it up, fast. I mean, at first I’d found the plant’s severe leaning to be kind of cute, but it was starting to get out of control. Next thing I knew, the neighborhood stay cats would be using it as a scratching post. I began wracking my brain for some great uses for basil.

The first idea is, of course, pesto. And I’ve made a few batches of it already, trust me. Ailanthus did a post about pesto, and I’ll just let you work off her recipe, which I give a hearty endorsement. Mainly because it’s nearly identical to my mommy’s. (I will give one warning though: if, like me, you tend to put in more garlic than a recipe calls for, beware that raw garlic is a lot spicier than cooked garlic.)

In addition to pesto, there’s the natural choice to make a nice caprese salad. Or throw the odd basil leaf or two into various sauces and dishes. But this was serious. I had a goddamn basil tree in my backyard that was going to collapse under its own weight.

Then I found something magical on the internets: basil butter. This recipe, found on, is beautiful in its simplicity. While you can (and perhaps should) freeze some for later use, you should also be sure to enjoy some while it’s fresh. And it turns out exactly the way you’d expect: buttery, basil-y, delicious. I’m almost through my first batch of it already and I don’t plan on slowing down. And no, this crap isn’t good for you, but who cares?

Basil Butter

1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 pound butter, softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

In a food processor, chop basil. Add butter, lemon juice and pepper and garlic salt; blend until smooth. Drop by half-tablespoons onto a baking sheet; freeze. Remove from baking sheet and store in freezer bags. Use to flavor chicken, fish or vegetables.

Photo Courtesy of the author

7 replies on “When Your Basil Plant Becomes a Basil Tree”

I planted basil seeds a couple of months ago and they are doing nothing. I planted five, five sprouted, one immediately disintegrated. The remaining four continued to grow slowly, and seriously slowly. Then three of the four shriveled up and disappeared. I have one hanging on that spends most of its time hunched over with its two teeny tiny leave on the soil. When I water it, I use a spray bottle and try to prop it up on the ledge of the can. It’s near a window and I worry about it daily. It’s not going to make it, is it? I should just get a basil plant from Trader Joe’s, or I will never have my own basil for pesto, basil leaves for my caprese salad with white beans (seriously, yum), or my spaghetti with olive oil and lemon, or my basil butter WHAT YES THAT. Why can’t I just admit it??

This sounds DELICIOUS. I love basil, but I can never get my basil plants to survive. Maybe I should send them to you for a little TLC.

I once came across this delicious recipe that had a thin chicken breast rolled up with this amazing feta/cilantro mixture in the center. I remember thinking that it used an obscene amount of cilantro. I bet you could do something similarly delicious with basil.

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