Photo by Manuel De Simone via Flickr
Whether you’re growing basil to make pesto or for other culinary uses, the question that always comes up is how to store fresh basil. Here’s what you need to know to prune, store, and use fresh basil in the kitchen.
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Let’s take a look at this unique herb that’s swept our hearts away.
Proper pruning is important to get the best harvest from your basil plant. As long as you are growing your plant outside in hot, sunny weather, expect to prune the plant every 2-3 weeks by pinching off the new growth just above the second set of leaves. (See photo below).
This will produce a vigorous, bushy plant. Get ready to be inundated with basil every 2-3 weeks! If you’re growing basil indoors on a sunny windowsill, the growth rate will be a little slower.
Would you like to learn more about growing herbs for your kitchen, your medicine cabinet, and for the pollinators?
You’ll find loads of information just like this in my book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.
How to Store Basil
Basil doesn’t keep well: If you put it in the fridge, it turns brown. If you leave it on the counter, it wilts. I used to put off pruning basil until I had the time to rush into the kitchen and process it.
The Ultimate Basil Storage Trick
But then I found the ultimate storage trick: Stick sprigs of basil in a glass of water with a pinch of sugar, and place it in a sunny window. Basil in a water glass will keep indefinitely if you change the water every few days. If you only have small sprigs with no stems, then you can sit them in a bowl of shallow water for the same effect.
The basil sprigs will develop roots in the water.
Am I the last gardener or amateur chef to discover this???
Supposedly this trick will work with any culinary herb in the mint family. I haven’t tried it, but test it out on marjoram, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, sage, spearmint or thyme, and let me know how it goes.
As you can see, after about a week, this basil sprig has grown roots and is quite happy.
Try the ultimate basil storage trick whenever life gets between you and your pesto!
Using Fresh Basil in the Kitchen
Though there are many different types of basil, I prefer the Genovese (Italian) variety.
- Knife skills are essential when preparing basil in the kitchen. Here’s how to chiffonade basil by Untrained Housewife
- Fresh Caprese salad (5 minute recipe) by Pantry Paratus
- Peach Basil Salsa by Homestead Honey
- Here are 12 more uses for fresh basil. You’ll never run out of ideas!
Let’s not mess around–you know you’re going to make pesto! Italian pesto is one of the most common ways to use fresh basil.
- Homemade pesto sauce (without nuts!) by Little Sprouts Learning
- Basil pesto with pecans by Schneider Peeps
- Macadamia nut basil pesto by Attainable Sustainable
Freezing Pesto by Schneider Peeps
Tip for using frozen pesto cubes: Throw them in sauces, soups, and stews throughout the year. Just one cube adds a background thickness and makes broth or stock more flavorful; more cubes give a dish that basil-y, pesto-y goodness.
- Try: Turkey and Pesto Roll-ups: One of our favorite quick lunches or appetizers is to thaw frozen pesto cubes and make turkey-and-pesto roll-ups with deli-sliced turkey. Add little toothpicks to make it fancy!
Dehydrated basil is an easy way to preserve the harvest. It takes about 4-5 hours in my dehydrator. Dried basil doesn’t seem to have the same zing as fresh or frozen, but in a pinch, you don’t want to your fresh basil to go to waste!
- Drying sweet basil in a home dehydrator by Untrained Housewife
- Freeze chopped basil leaves covered with olive oil in an ice cube tray (I like silicone trays because they make it easier to pop the frozen cubes out). I like to add basil-olive oil cubes to my Italian stuffed peppers.
- In cooking, basil pairs well with tomatoes and mozzarella. Try tomato basil soup, bruschetta, or margherita pizza.
What’s your favorite way to use fresh basil or pesto?