Basil is an essential ingredient for many cuisines, especially Italian dishes. So, if you’re a die-hard fan of tomato basil soups, basil grilled cheese, pesto, and pasta marinara, then you’ll definitely need a bunch of basil in your cooking arsenal.
To know more about how you could dry and keep your basil fresh for as long as possible, keep reading.
Of course, freezing the herb seems to be the go-to option but you must know that if it isn’t done properly you’ll be left with discolored and mushy leaves instead. To avoid this, you’ll first have to blanch the basil.
There are enzymes present in fresh basil that decompose it upon and after harvest. If you transfer the basil straight into your freezer, the enzymes are still active. Thereby causing the herb to decompose while it’s being stored. To halt or slow down this decomposition, you’ll have to ill the enzymes and the surest way to do it is through blanching.
To blanch the basil you’ll need:
- A pot
- Fresh basil
- Freezer bags
First, fill a large bowl with ice. Then on your cooker, fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil. As the water boils, place your bunch of basil in the strainer and dip it into the boiling water.
Our aim here is not to cook the basil rather it’s to sort of wilt it. This takes only a couple of seconds. Once this has been achieved, quickly pour the basil into the bowl of ice. This removes the residual heat and would prevent the basil from cooking any further.
Then pat your blanched herbs dry before you begin plucking the leaves from the stem. Place the leaves in a freezer bag, spreading them flat so you can easily pick them out when you need to use some of them.
Finally, place the freezer bags filled with basil in your freezer and only bring it out when you need it.
This is the best possible way to preserve your basil. Using this method, it retains its flavor and healthy green look for a while. For this method you’ll need:
- Freezer bags
- Fresh basil
- Sharp knife
Using a sharp knife, trim the ends of the basil plant. Place the bunch in a jar filled with water as if you were preserving some flowers. Cover up the entire plant with freezer bags and place it in your fridge.
This is a simple method that wouldn’t fail. Although, it’ll take up a lot of space in your fridge.
Salad Greens Method
Another method to employ is storing it just as you would salad greens. Pluck off the leaves of the basil from the stems.
Pour the leaves into a bowl and fill the rest of it up with water. Swish the leaves around to remove any possible dirt. You’ll notice the dirt settle at the bottom and the leaves float on the surface of the water.
If you have a salad spinner you can use it to wash your basil leaves too. Using a strainer, gather the basil leaves and spin them in the salad spinner till they dry.
Once they are dry, line them up on a paper towel and pat them dry. The excess moisture has to be removed from the leaves so they do not wilt. Roll the basil up and place it in a freezer bag. This method keeps the basil hydrated without it being damp.
Make Fresh Basil Oil
This method is a continuation of the freezing method. After blanching your basil, you need to puree them. To do this you’ll need:
- A blender
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Ice cube trays
- Freezer bags
- Blanched basil
Place the blanched basil in a blender or food processor and add in the olive oil. Blend the mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze. Once it is frozen, transfer the basil oil cubes into a freezer bag and store them in your fridge. With this method, you’ll always have a measured portion of basil available whenever you want to cook.
There are several ways you could go about drying basil in your home. They include:
- Air drying
- Sun drying
- Using a microwave
- Using a food dehydrator
- Using an oven
This is the easiest method but it takes a long time. With this method, it takes two to four weeks to get dried basil.
To air-dry basil, simply hang the sprigs upside down in a well-aerated area that is out of the reach of direct sunlight.
If you live in a tropical area, then this is the ideal method for you. Simply spread out the basil sprigs on a clean surface such as a drying mat or clean bedsheet. Secure the drying mat in place with a few rocks so the wind doesn’t blow it away. Finally, place the mat at a location where it has full exposure to direct sunlight.
Rinse off your basil leaves from dirt and pat them down with a paper towel to get rid of excess moisture. Transfer them to a microwavable container and turn on the microwave for 20 seconds at the highest setting.
Repeat the process for 20 seconds each time till the leaves begin to curl up. This should take you a total of two to three minutes at most.
This method is rather expensive and should be done if you have a food dehydrator at your disposal. Simply arrange the leaves into it and allow them to dry on the lowest temperature setting.
Arrange the leaves on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Set your oven to 200F and let your leaves dry for about fifteen minutes.
Using any of the drying and storing methods discussed above, you’ll never run out of fresh basil for cooking.
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