Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Day 47: More Yumminess

I actually still have an older Aerogarden growing, and the cilantro had grown huge, because I just didn't have any recipes for cilantro.

So, I searched and found a recipe on AllRecipes.Com that uses a lot of cilantro and basil too! It's cilantro fried rice.

So, I harvested a big bunch of cilantro from my old Aerogarden and a bunch of basil from my new one.

Add in some high quality rice, some fish sauce, some sugar, some chicken, some garlic, and put it all into a big ol' wok, and this is what I got.

No kidding, this was the most delicious thing I've cooked in a while. It was also a great way to use fish sauce, which I've had an unused bottle of sitting in my cabinet for about four years now (yes, I did do a Google search and learned that fish sauce never goes bad!)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day 43: More stuff to do with basil

Okay, it's Day 43. I followed the instructions in the book to prune the plants. It's a bit counterintuitive, but the way to ensure that your plants grow their biggest is to chop them by up to a third every now and then (even if you have no use for the basil and have to throw the cuttings away). This allows new growth to start.

Of course, being somewhat stubborn, my goal is to find as many uses for basil as I could. The first, of course, is Insalata Caprese.

Basically, it's made of sliced plum tomatoes, sliced fresh mozarella, a little salt, a little pepper, lots of basil, olive oil, and a whole lot of "mmmmm". It's so delicious, it's hard to believe it's good for you too. I made the batch above, put it in the fridge overnight, and ate it for lunch at work the next day.

I still had a whole batch of pesto in the freezer from the last batch. So I went onto The Food Network and found a recipe for "basil mashed potatoes".

Okay, let's just say it tastes much better than it looks! It's basically just mashed potatoes, but instead of adding butter and milk, you add stock and pesto.

The basil is still growing out of control! Even after pruning it, here's what it looks like today.

Notice the little flower pot to the right. The plant you see to the right is actually a red basil plant transplanted from an old Aerogarden that I've since started planting other things in. The Aerogrow people tell you to harvest these plants for a few months, and then to pretty much throw out the mature plants...but I tried a little experiment--I took a mature plant, cut off the plastic from the seed pod, and transplanted it into a container with potting soil.

I didn't think the plant could take the shock of going from a hydroponic setting to a conventional soil setting, but so far, it looks like it's doing pretty well, and by putting it next to my Aerogarden unit, I can give it "free sunshine".

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Day 40: The Second Basil Harvest

Well, it's only a week later since the massive harvest, and as you can see, the basil grew back, and is still growing like crazy. The water level dropped by several cups, because the basil plants are hungrily drinking it all up. I refilled the water.

Admittedly, I'm getting a little confused by the slightly different instructions on the International Basil version of the Aerogarden, although it's my fault for not filling out the handy checklist that they provided in two places :) I think I was supposed to "rinse and refill" but I ended up just refilling. Let's see if that affects the growth of the basil...

I've always said when I had a basil garden, the first recipe would be pesto, the second would be a margherita pizza.

For those who don't know, the margherita pizza gets its name from Queen Margherita of Italy in 1889. This kind of pizza is quintessentially Italian, because its colors mimic the colors of the Italian flag: the tomatoes give the red, the mozzarella cheese gives the white, and the basil gives the green. The Queen enjoyed the pizza so much she wrote its creator Raffaelle Esposito, who named it after her.

Here's my version of the pizza. Everything was made from scratch, from the crust to the tomato sauce, and of course, the Aerogarden basil. Traditionally, I don't think they contain this much basil, but of course, I have more than I know what to do with :)

Actually, I made three of them! :)
Buying all this basil in a supermarket would have cost at least $8-10, and it would have likely been several days old by the time I bought in. Here, I just picked them fresh off the plant, and there's plenty more where it came from!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Day 33: The Harvest of Basil

Normally, you sow your seeds in April and harvest in August. But with my Aerogarden, after just a month, we're ready to start harvesting a bountiful crop!

Here's what the Aerogarden looked like today.

Now, I did a little faux pas...I've been so busy at work that I didn't realize that the red light for water and nutrients went off a few days ago! Luckily, there was enough in the resevoir to keep the plants going--and going--and going.
Something else that happened was that the plants grew so quickly and so tall that they started to grow against the light. All that really happens is that the top leaves close to the lame dry out quickly, so I just took the few leaves that were affected and threw them out. Then, I raised the lamp, and then followed the instructions in the manual to prune the plants.
Pruning is something that a lot of people find counterintuitive--they think that cutting the plant is taking away from the plant. But in reality--it helps the plant grow its biggest.
What I did was, I cut each of the basil plants by about 1/3. The leaves all had a very distinct smell. My favorite was the lemon basil, with a wonderful lemony aroma. The Napolatino basil had freakishly big leaves--almost the size of lettuce leaves! Here was the haul!

And so, true to my promise to myself, I proceeded to make pesto. To do this, I collected about three cups of basil leaves (of all different kinds), and mixed them with garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, parmesian cheese, and a hint of romano cheese. This is what I ended up with.

I can honestly say that the pesto was phenomenal. All the different kinds of basil gave it a wonderful taste and aroma that I've never experienced before! I froze most of the basil for me to whip up as dinner and snacks for the future, but I then cooked up some pasta and tossed a teaspoon or two in.

And thus went the first very successful harvest for the Aerogarden.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Day 27: Anyone got a machete?

Check out how big the plants have gotten in just 5 days! I had to raise the light one notch to avoid the leaves from getting too close to the grow light.
Each basil plant has a ton of leaves now. Amazingly, the water level was extremely low (the "water level low" light had been flashing for about a day, but I didn't realize how low it really was), because the plants are just so darned thirsty. I refilled the water back to the line.
The manual gives very precise details of how to prune the plants, so I'll probably have to do that soon.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Day 22: What a Difference a Week Makes

What a difference a week makes! Take a look at how big the plants have grown in just a week!

Each of the different basil plants has taken off its own distinct shape and aroma. The lemon basil smells distinctly like, what else, lemons. The red rubin basil has a beautiful deep red shade. The napolitano basil has a leaves with an interesting bumpy texture. Take a look at the distinct shapes here.