How To: Preserve Basil

Now that your garden is in full bloom, and your basil bush is a foot tall and ready to be harvested, just what exactly should you do with all of those deliciously fragrant leaves? Well, if you don’t have plans to use them up right away, preserving your basil is a great way to keep the harvest year round. And, picking the leaves regularly will actually encourage your plant to produce more, yielding an even greater harvest. So take advantage of your basil’s ability to grow and don’t let a single leaf go to waste if you can help it.

To preserve your basil, you have several options. Whichever you choose, always rinse any dirt off first, and dry it thoroughly before continuing. A salad spinner works great for drying, or you can use towels to blot the excess water off.

FREEZE IT
Put freshly picked leaves into a food processor or blender with enough olive oil to keep it mixing, just long enough to chop leaves but not puree them. Spread this mixture onto plastic wrap, and roll it tightly. You can wrap this with foil for extra protection if desired. It’ll stay good for several months like this. If you don’t process with olive oil, the basil will turn black in the freezer. Another option is to put the basil mixture into ice cube trays to freeze, and then transfer these to a ziploc or another container. It is helpful to freeze in amounts your favorite recipe calls for.

DRY IT
You can also dry it in a dehydrator, hang it in bunches for 2-3 weeks, or use the oven. The best way to dry in the oven is to wait until after you have baked something else at no higher than 350 degrees, then turn the oven off and place the basil leaves on a cookie sheet into the oven to dry until crumbly. Of course, you can also sun-dry the leaves on a screen outside.

KEEP IT COOL
Basil will keep in the fridge for months. In a glass jar, layer basil leaves with salt, and fill the jar with olive oil, leaving 1″ headspace. Use this in recipes which call for fresh basil leaves.

Do you have a favorite way to preserve or use up your fresh basil? I’d love to know how you deal with an abundance of this delicious culinary herb!

16 thoughts on “How To: Preserve Basil

  1. I do it the way my MIL does – pick, wash & dry flat on tea towel, freeze then put individual frozen leaves in a container in the freezer.

  2. I’m thinking the olive oil/chopped and frozen in ice cube trays idea is a great idea! Then just pop all those portion controlled cubes in freezer zippie bags, and voila!

  3. I tried drying basil earlier this year by washing, drying and hanging bunches upside down. It got moldy and I had to throw it out. How do I keep my basil from molding?

  4. I make a rather dry pesto (basil, parm, garlic, and enough olive oil to get it mixed) and then pack it tightly into a tablespoon measuring spoon. You can then pop it out, lump intact, onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet and freeze. Sorta the same idea as the ice cube trays but I find it a bit easier. They freeze within an hour or so and then I just keep them in a big container or bag. You can also do it with just basil and olive oil but there’s nothing like homemade pesto in the middle of the winter.

  5. What great ideas!!!! Unfortunately, I had to plant my basil THREE times this year because of cold wet weather – it’s just starting to show up now…. I’m hoping I can salvage it before the frost comes.

  6. my basil is a volunteer plant this year, growing up in a pot with some zinnias :) I think I’ll try the freeze method

  7. Wow you read my mind Lehman’s I was thinking earlier today I needed to look up how to preserve some basil.

  8. I spread my freshly washed basil leaves out on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven at the lowest setting (170* on my oven) then enjoy the wonderful aroma it gives off! Once “crispy” they easily crumble and store in a glass jar on my spice shelf!

  9. Just cut some today and I tie them with a string at the bottom and hang them upside down in my kitchen. With the AC on, they dry pretty fast. I hang the catmint the same way, just a little higher ;-)

  10. @Elizabeth, MUST dry it in a DRY location. If you rinse it, be sure it is dry (lay on a paper towel) I hang only 3-4 branches together and hang it in an area where it gets air circulation…dampness (like a basement) is not a good thing…if you have a porch that gets hot that might work…I dont’ turn my oven on when it’s hot outside, so I have never tried the oven dry method…

  11. Pingback: My Love Affair with Basil « Real Life Farm Wife

  12. Pingback: Saturday on the Farm

  13. Cuttings from basil will root quickly and last a long time indoors, I like to do this at the end of the season before all the basil is gone