Presenting: The best accident of my life (specifically in regards to gardening and pickles): Basil & Baby Carrot Quick Pickles!
Believe it or not, I have gotten minimally better at vegetable gardening in my time as an adult (read: time with a yard, sooo 9ish years). I started out killing ALL the things, then did ok with a raised bed and a few tomato plants for a few years, and when we moved to our current house we inherited what I fondly called “The Patch.” The Patch is a decent sized rectangle cut out of our yard which we assumed upon moving in used to be a garden but had since been overtaken by enormous weeds, a pile of unused moldy mulch and a variety of broken cinder blocks and bricks.
Last year we cleared and tilled The Patch, renamed it “The Garden,” and stuck some stuff in the ground to see what worked or what didn’t. It was an ok year. We didn’t have a rabbit fence so every single tender bean leaf was eaten, and our attempt to grow sweet corn (an exercise in futility when much better stuff is sold by the bushel for less than $10 in the summer) only served to supply the raccoons a midnight snack.
This year, as one does after a gloomy winter, I went into Spring with a renewed attitude! I WOULD BE A SUCCESSFUL GARDENER! You might recall my naive self back in May swelling with pride at my little lettuce plants and their neat little rows:
And ya know what? In May and June, it was great. We had endless salads, fresh lettuce for sandwiches, crunchy broccoli for snacking and side dishes, and even the early cherry tomatoes were great. But that was then.
Now it’s early August. We’ve had a TON of rain this summer turning every weed into the Hulk, taking over my garden with an unparalleled growth rate. My straw mulch and newsprint weed barrier was worn through and the weeds broke through like they were making up for lost time. My leftover lettuce bolted to the extent of growing tiny yellow flowers, and my broccoli plants grew legs and were suddenly 4 foot droopy stems which had all fallen down like tiny trees in a windstorm.
Today I decided it was past due to put in some work in the garden (now begrudgingly referred to once again as The Patch). I ripped out all the weeds, spent cauliflower, broccoli and lettuce. Then I got to the row of carrots.
Planted by seed, carrots are easy to grow in that they usually germinate without issue– but they do require a little maintenance– thinning them out as sprouts so each carrot gets plenty of time to get big and ya know– carrot sized.
Well add to that a less than motivated gardener (whoops), hulk-weeds, and 3 inches of rain every 5 days and what you have is a weed and carrot intertwined row that just needed to be completely pulled.
I figured if they were just tiny roots, then that was their fate and we’d try again next year when our renewed sense of gardening hope was once again high. However here’s where it got surprisingly fun. Turns out, by not thinning out my carrots and just ignoring them, I ended up with a crop of adorable “baby” carrots that were just begging to be pickled as soon as they came out of the ground! They were the perfect size for a crudités or cheese plate, to add as a crunchy side with a sandwich, or just to have as a snack. Opposed to store bought baby carrots (which are just ugly carrots whittled down into uniform nubbins), these truly were babies! With their gnarly roots and their thin skin– they also were ever so slightly a bit more bitter than a larger carrot, which lent itself to being a little more interesting in the world of pickles.
These are a quick pickle, so you can eat them shortly after making it, and they are not meant for long term storage, but they can easily be made all year long and are killer with some hummus or accompanying your cheeses. I added basil as a somewhat unexpected pickle herb (giving dill a break here), and it’s mild summery flavor and the slightly bitter carrots were perfect pairs.
Basil & Baby Carrot Quick Pickles
makes 1 pint | keeps in the fridge for a month
8 oz carrots (no need to ignore your garden for 4 months to get the babies, trimmed normal sized store bought or homegrown carrots work too!)
3 large basil leaves
3/4 oz white wine vinegar
1/4 oz water
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp black peppercorns
Heat a 16 oz jar with hot tap water and set upside down on a towel to dry.
Trim carrots as needed to fit into a 1 pint jar. For my baby carrots, I wanted them to keep their funky shape so I didn’t peel them (if I did, I would have almost no carrot left) and trimmed the longest part of the root, along with the very top where the greens grow. Pack the carrots and the basil into the jar. Set aside.
Bring vinegar, water, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, and peppercorns to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from stove and using a ladle or your stellar pouring skills, pour hot brine into jar. Set aside, uncovered for 30 minutes to let cool, then screw on the top. Refrigerate for at least 2.5 hours before eating. Keeps for about 4 weeks in the fridge.