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 donâ€™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 basilâ€™s ability to grow and donâ€™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.
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. Itâ€™ll stay good for several months like this. If you donâ€™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.
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 1â€³ 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? Iâ€™d love to know how you deal with an abundance of this delicious culinary herb!