Too Much Basil !?!

Never had to say this before but I had a basil problem this year.  It started innocently enough, six little basil plants here, six more there, and heck, why not?  Another six.  Basil is one of those plants that just make you feel good.  It germinates quickly and watching those green leaves come out on the windowsill while it’s still too cold to plant anything outside gets me primed to get the garden going.  I ended up with about 18 plants that I put in the ground in front of my tomatoes.  I heard that tomatoes and basil like to grow next to each other.  They weren’t kidding.

Pistol and Mike picking basil

A couple of weeks ago we harvested over 5 lbs of the stuff!  We made pesto of course.  Lots of it. Tons of pesto.  Great, we still had a couple pounds of cleaned basil leaves ready to go.  We loves us some caprese salad but that didn’t even put a dent into basil mountain plus we needed the refrigerator space.   Plenty of other things were ripening and needed attention too.  What to do with too much basil?  I ended up making basil oil and basil syrup.  Both are infusions.  One into oil and the other into sugar syrup.

drying basil

For the oil:

Take a produce bag full of basil leaves (about a pound) and stuff it in a blender with 2 cups of olive oil.

blender full of basil

Blend it up and let it sit for an hour or two.

After a couple hours I simmered it for about 15  minutes to extract flavor and get some of the moisture from the basil out of the oil.  I’m not sure it was essential but it didn’t hurt anything.


Strain it through a strainer.  Work it around with a spoon to get all the oil through.

cloth filter

Strain it again through a cloth lined strainer to get more of the finer stuff out.

paper filter

Filter it through a paper towel or coffee filter to get the finest bits out.  This took a long time and I had to swap the coffee filter out 3-4 times because it was clogging up and I was impatient.

Seal it in a jar or two.  I made two jars and stuck one in the fridge and one in the freezer for later.

For the syrup:

First make a simple syrup.  Never made it before?  Don’t worry, it’s simple!  Just take equal parts by volume of water and sugar ( I used 1 1/2 cups each) and heat it in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved into the water.  Make sure to stir it regularly so that it doesn’t boil over.  Once the sugar is dissolved take the pan off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Take a produce bag full of basil leaves (about a pound) and stuff it in a blender with the syrup.

Blend it up and let it sit for an hour or two.

Strain it through a strainer.  Work it around with a spoon to get all the syrup through.

Strain it again through a cloth lined strainer to get more of the finer stuff out.

cooking syrup

At this point I brought it back up to a boil to thicken it.  All the fine bits of leaves immediately separated out and clumped up at the top of the syrup so I skimmed it off and decided to filter it through a coffee filter too.  This took a while but not as long as the oil.  It came out a nice golden color.

filtering syrup

After filtering bring the syrup to a low boil and evaporate enough moisture off to thicken it some.  I wanted a slightly gooey syrup.  Hint– let it cool before you touch it.

sticky finger

Stick it in a jar.

finished jars

OK Mike,  That’s nice but what do I do with the stuff?

Try the oil drizzled on potatoes- mashed, roasted whatever.

Make awesome bruschetta:  Toast some good bread, rub a raw garlic clove on it, drizzle basil oil, top w/ fresh diced tomato.

Get all fancy like and use an eye dropper to put three emerald drops just so on your plate and impress your friends.

Spoon some syrup over homemade vanilla ice cream or panna cotta.

Make some sort of fancy cocktail.  Basil and gin sounds good to me.


That’s what I would do…



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Once again we couldn’t help but show off Mike’s basil recipe with others!

Hearth & Soul Hop



  1. Posted September 8, 2011 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    At first I thought you were kidding…. no such thing as too much basil.  Awesome ideas, basil oil and basil syrup.  A toasted bagel with some pesto and garlic… screaming good!

  2. Posted September 8, 2011 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    I am so incredibly envious of your basil abundance. We definitely can’t grow it here. It is rare to be able to find it in grocery stores. When you do you get a tiny plastic package with about 10 leaves for $4 and the leaves are most likely all brown anyway. We are big pesto fans so the lack of lush basil is disappointing.

  3. Sandra Gomez
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    You convinced me, I’m gonna try the basil oil.

  4. Grumpyrumblings
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Nom!  We just need to remember to pick ours before it bolts…

  5. Posted September 11, 2011 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    Mmm mmm good. Is it weird that I really want to lick the syrupy finger? 

    • Posted September 11, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      How can you resist the syrupy finger?

  6. Practical Parsimony
    Posted September 12, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I have never seen so much basil in all my life. I have had thoughts of finding basil to roll in.  Basil is to me as catnip is to cats. No, I have never rolled in it.  My friends enjoy this silly idea of mine.

  7. Angelaras
    Posted October 3, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Any tips on growing Basil? I have a plant I’ve been growing all summer but produces small basil leaves and I live in south Dakota so I just brought the plant in in hopes it stays alive throughout winter but the leaves are SO puny. 🙁 I barely get anything good before the leaves withers.

    • Posted October 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      It could be so many things so I’ll start with two suggestions:
      1) start the seeds inside until they get a good start.
      2) Get your soil tested- either at your county assessors or your local garden nursery.
      Good luck!

  8. Posted April 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Delicious ideas for using up excess basil!

  9. Posted April 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m liking the idea of a basil and gin cocktail! It sounds so summery 🙂 Seriously though, I’m quite envious of your basil harvest – I’m definitely going to try planting mine near to my tomatoes this year. How wonderful to have homemade pesto, basil oil and basil syrup on hand! 

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  1. By Seed Starting Station - Mike and Molly's House on February 16, 2012 at 6:32 am

    […] started a lot of basil under those lights.  Mommy Shea liked it so much she ended up getting it for her birthday!  This […]

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