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15 Unusual Uses For Basil Leaves For When You’ve Had Enough Pesto

Likely, you’re here because you read Meredith’s article about how to prune basil, so it grows into massive plants.

Now, instead of these spindly little plants with about seven leaves that have already gone to seed, you’ve got monster basil bushes taking over your garden.

Instead of zucchini, you’ve got basil coming out of your ears. What are you going to do with it all?

Oh, my friend, I am here to help. The answer is quite simple when you’ve got tons of basil.

Make pesto!

Ha, yeah, I know, not funny. This is serious. We’re past pesto. We’ve all got about six gallon freezer bags filled with ice cubes of pesto in our freezer. Christmas ham? No honey, we’re having pesto for Christmas dinner this winter.

And I can tell by your twitching eyebrow that even mentioning the word “Caprese” will probably end with me being pelted with frozen pesto cubes.

You’re probably thinking, “This is a basil emergency, Tracey. Please, give me something I haven’t made fifty times in the past month.”

Comin’ up!

I’ve got 15 clever ways to help you use up all that extra basil.

Let’s start with a couple of incredibly easy things; dishes you can make with only a couple of ingredients and a few minutes of your time.

1. Garlic Basil Butter

Oh yeah, only three ingredients, and you’re well on your way to the most incredible toast you’ve ever used to mop up your pesto marinara. This tasty compound butter is great on toasted bread, tossed with pasta or melted over fresh, steamed veggies.

2. Basil Salt

Herb-infused salts are an excellent way to enjoy the flavor of fresh herbs all year long. They’re quick and easy to mix up. And they make an inexpensive yet super-impressive gift for all of the foodies in your life.

Salt and fresh basil are all you need, and I’ll bet you’ve already got both.

3. Basil Tea

Basil tea is a wonderful drink after a big meal. The scent is soothing, and basil is great for mild indigestion. Settle your stomach after an especially rich dinner.

Place 4-6 fresh leaves in a teapot and pour in boiling water. Let the tea steep for five minutes. Serve your basil tea with a squeeze of lemon or a teaspoon of honey.

Next, we’ll move onto basil in liquid form, something a bit more than tea.

4. Blueberry Basil Mead

A glass of blueberry basil mead is the perfect combination of summer flavors.

I’m just going to tell you right now this is the best thing on this entire list.

What do you mean I’m only saying that because it’s my recipe?

In all seriousness, this is a great mead. When you bring the glass up to your lips to take a sip, you get the aroma of sun-warmed basil, and that first taste is bursting with the sweetness of the blueberries. It just gets better with time. I make a batch every summer.

It’s a perennial favorite among family and friends, and I’m often left with only a single bottle for myself after I’m done giving them out. That’s why this year, I made two batches!

If you’ve never made mead, this is an excellent foray into homebrewing.

I walk you through the entire process from start to finish. (Here’s a secret about making your own mead, cider or beer – most of it involves long stretches of completely ignoring the thing you’re making. It’s the perfect hobby for lazy hobbyists like myself.)

5. Basil Smash

Of course, if you don’t want to wait to drink your boozy basil, you can always make a cocktail. With craft cocktails being the epitome of cool these days, more and more herbs are finding their way into your coupe glass. For a refreshing gin-based cocktail, give this delightful basil smash a try.

6. Basil Lemonade

Or, if you want something alcohol-free, you can’t beat a tall, cold glass of lemonade. When you infuse this classic summer sipper with basil, you’ll be stirring up pitcher after pitcher all summer long. Citrus and basil pair so well together. The slight spicey green of the basil helps to temper the acidic sweetness of traditional lemonade.

Bring a pitcher to your next barbecue or picnic because, let’s face it, you only need so many bowls of macaroni salad.

How about something to eat that isn’t pesto?

7. Caprese Grilled Cheese

Okay, I know it’s Caprese, but this is grilled cheese. This is a delicious, cheesy sandwich to keep you going while you’re out there working in the garden all day. Did I mention the gooey melted cheese? Whip up a few of these sandwiches at the end of the day for a lightning-fast and satisfying dinner option.

8. Basil Guacamole

Sometimes the best recipes are merely a twist on an old standby. When it comes to Mexican food, it’s hard to beat fresh guacamole for adding to tacos and dipping chips. Take this tasty condiment in an entirely different direction with some traditional Italian flavors. Skip the chips and toast a few slices of pita.

How about something sweet to eat?

9. Basil Lime Sorbet

Sorbet is always a crowd-pleaser for dinner parties. These sweet, icy treats are an excellent way to finish off a summer meal. Whip up this light basil lime sorbet and garnish it with a fresh sprig of basil. I think you’ll be surprised at how well the basil flavor works in a frozen treat.

10. Basil and Watermelon Skewers

If it’s just too hot to cook, whip up a quick batch of these basil, watermelon and feta skewers. They make an excellent snack or a fancy hors d’oeuvre. The tartness of the feta balances the sweetness of the watermelon, and the fresh basil brings the whole thing together. And you didn’t even have to turn on the stove.

11. Blueberry Basil Goat Cheese Pie

Excuse me, what?

Yeah, I know. But try it. You’re going to have to trust me on this one. It’s amazing. We all know blueberry and basil are a match made in heaven, but when you add in the tart, creamy goat cheese, this trio knocks it out of the park.

Save this pie for special occasions; it’s that good. This is the pie you bake when company is coming over. Trust me, they’ll be telling friends at work about this amazing pie they had at their friend’s place last night.

And now let’s look at some things to do with basil that doesn’t involve eating it.

12. Anti-Aging Face Cream

For a soothing basil treat for your face, whip up a batch of this anti-aging face cream from The Nerdy Farm Wife. Basil has been reported to have some serious anti-aging benefits. After reading the ingredient lists of skincare creams, more and more of us are opting for something more natural. What better way to control what you put on your face than by making it yourself?

13. Basil Facial Toner

Continuing on the skincare theme: basil makes a wonderfully refreshing facial toner that can help to clear up mild acne. Plus, it’s another way to enjoy more of the anti-aging properties of basil. For a seriously refreshing facial toner, keep a spray bottle of it in the fridge and mist your face on hot days.

Now grab a glass of that basil lemonade, and you’re all set.

14. Headache Remedy

While basil has been used medicinally for centuries, it often requires tinctures or oils or salves. Here’s an easy way to put basil’s muscle-relaxing qualities to good use without a trip to the natural foods store.

Steam basil leaves to relieve stress headaches. Much like making essential oils, where the steam carries the delicate oils of the plant, inhaling basil-infused steam can help melt away a headache.

Pour hot water into a large bowl. You’ll want the water to be hot enough to be steamy but not boiling. Sprinkle a handful of fresh basil leaves on the surface of the water. Now place your face over the water and cover your head with a towel. Breathe deeply. With every exhale, say, “Let that crap go.”

Feeling better already, right?

15. Freeze It

Of course, the best way to deal with too much basil is to freeze it. Fresh basil is lovely, and enjoying it snipped directly from the plant in pesto and Caprese salads is a staple of summertime eating. But it’s appreciated in those cooler winter months too. You know, when the memory of summer produce fades. (Because it takes that long for the word “pesto” to no longer be considered a four-letter word.)

So, check out 4 different ways to freeze basil, and you can relax and start worrying about what to do with all those zucchini and tomatoes taking over your counter instead.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,