Growing your own herbs can save you a ton of money. Putting them in pots that can be brought inside for the winter can be a big investment, but you get fresh herbs for a tiny fraction of what they cost at the supermarket. Fresh basil at the supermarket costs as much as $5 for a single bunch. However, when you grow your own basil, you have to contend with a problem you don’t have to deal with with the store-bought stuff: insect damage. Insects are a fact of life when you grow plants. Even if you were to use heavy doses of pesticides, you would still get some insects and some insect damage.
But insect damaged basil doesn’t have to be thrown away as wasted. Most insect-damaged basil leaves can still be saved and put to good use.
Since Italian is one of my favorite styles of cuisine, I do tend to add basil and oregano to a lot of my dishes. Most of the time, dried basil simply makes more sense to use than fresh basil. Besides that, because I don’t want insects in my home, I don’t bring my herbs inside for the winter. So I need to use dried herbs when it is to cold outside to keep my herb garden alive.
Drying herbs such as basil is pretty easy and hides the holes from where the local insects made a buffet of your garden. For a quick guide on using your oven to dry basil and other herbs, check out this guide.
I’m a big fan of pesto. I like to spread it on my bagel in the morning instead of cream cheese or other traditional spreads. I could buy it for a huge markup, or I could make it myself with some basil, olive oil, garlic, and Parmesan. And since the basil gets ground when making pesto, nobody will see if there area any holes in the leaves.
Getting a perfect leaf of basil is rare enough that it doesn’t make sense to waste it on any food that doesn’t showcase the whole leaf. Any time the leaf is going to be chopped or ground, feel free to use the basil leaves that have minor damage but otherwise have the proper color. You will get more out of your basil and save yourself some frustration.