Copyright ©2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Some things are so abundant in kitchen gardens this time of year that gardeners can't give them away. Think of zucchinis or cucumbers.

Commentator Jack Staub is a gardener who can't gush enough about a particular herb now at its peak.

JACK STAUB reporting:

One of the greatest pleasures of living in a space large enough for a plot of edible plants is that I can grow fresh herbs. Every year, I plant about 20 different kinds. Some annual, but most perennial. Rosemary, four kinds of thyme, tarragon, many mints, two types of sage. Nothing turns a simple dish into something sublime faster than a topped hand full of any of these.

But I have to say if I were limited to one herb alone, I would not hesitate to choose fresh annual basil. I grew three types this year. Lemon, Thai, which has a hint of spice and the familiar large leaf Genovese. And as in all summers they have really hit their stride in these last weeks of August, just as fall is looming on the horizon. Every gardener I know has a huge crop right now and has dined on almost nothing but fresh caprasi salad and pasta with pesto for weeks.

So what do you do with all this herbal bounty? I rinse, dry and pack a bunch of fresh basil leafs into my food processor. Then I add about an inch of good olive oil, three or four fat garlic cloves, a palm full of salt, some generous grindings of fresh pepper. This makes a thick, green emulsion. If it's too thick, I add more oil and whisk it up again. When I'm satisfied I pour it into plastic ice cube trays and freeze.

When the cubes are frozen I pop them out and store them in freezer bags. That's it. I'm always amazed at how these cubes keep that fresh summery bite even after months in the freezer. So come November, or even February when thinks are really dreary, I just thaw one or two. For real pesto, I whisk it up again with pine nuts and fresh Parmesan. But these cubes are also brilliant for marinating meats or tossing with vegetables and a squeeze of lemon. They can also jump start a salad dressing like nothing else, as well as add an amazing green zing to any warming soup or stew.

Best of all, they'll keep that pined for taste of summer lingering on your tongue even in the dark days of winter.

BLOCK: Commentator Jack Staub lives and gardens in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He's the author of 75 Exciting Vegetables for Your Garden. You can find his recipe for Orange Basil Shrimp at our Web site, NPR.org.

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