Basil leaves are arguably THE most popular and versatile herb out there. It’s found in so many cuisines and dishes, it’s known as the “king of herbs”. In fact, the word basil actually originates from the Greek word basileus, which literally means “royal or king”! This is why we need to know how to preserve basil and keep it fresh.
Recipes can call for either fresh or dried basil, and, yes, there are times when you actually need to follow the recipes to get the proper taste, texture, or consistency of the final dish. However, fresh basil isn’t always easy to get, and when you do, you want to preserve the herb for as long as possible so you don’t need to keep getting the fresh stuff.
Don’t worry, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about fresh basil and how to preserve it so that you can get that delicious basil flavor whenever you want.
What do fresh basil taste and smell like?
Fresh basil has a distinct smell and taste. It has a strong, sweet, and pungent smell, and a peppery taste.
Are there different varieties of basil?
There are over 60 varieties of basil around the world, but in the USA, the most common type of basil is the sweet basil. It has dark green leaves, a spicy aroma, and a clove-like flavor.
Dwarf basil is also quite common. It is also dark green, but the leaves are smaller compared to sweet basil. It has a spicy, lemony smell and it is slightly bitter.
Finally, you will also find Thai basil. Thai basil has small, thin leaves and purple stems. They have a spicy, licorice flavor.
How to preserve fresh basil?
There are three ways that you can preserve fresh basil.
First, you can wash them and freeze them whole. Simply remove the basil leaves from the stems, wash them, and dry them.
Place them on a cookie sheet and freeze them in your freezer. Place them in an airtight container and use as needed.
Second, you can blanch them and freeze them. Blanching the basil brings out the oils from the leaves, giving you a deeper and strong basil flavor. Plunge the fresh leaves into boiling water for 15 seconds, then place them immediately into ice water to stop the cooking process. Afterward, place them in an airtight container and store in freezer.
Finally, you can puree and freeze fresh basil. Chop the fresh basil roughly with a knife or use a food processor to pulse them. After chopping the basil, place the basil (roughly a teaspoon) into ice cube trays and cover them with extra-virgin olive oil. Place the ice cube trays into the freezer and allow the oil to freeze completely. Use as needed.
Can fresh basil leaves be frozen?
How do you dry basil leaves?
You can dry basil leaves either through air drying them or drying them in the oven. Dried basil leaves have a stronger flavor compared to fresh basil leaves.
To air-dry basil leaves, simply cut the stems around 6 inches long and tie them together in small bundles. Place a paper bag with holes punched into it around the bundles. Hang the bundles in a dark room with low humidity and allow them to air dry naturally. This process will take around a week to complete. The paper bag will catch the dried basil leaves as they fall from the stems.
Can you dry basil in the oven?
Yes, you can dry basil in the oven if you’re in a hurry for dried basil! Place the leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place them in an oven on low heat (around 180⁰F) for 2-4 hours. They are done when the leaves crumble easily. However, keep an eye on the basil leaves as they can burn easily.
Should I wash basil before preserving?
Yes, you should wash basil leaves before preserving them. This removes the dust and grit from the surface of the leaves.
Fresh basil is always a joy to have in the kitchen! You can use them in so many recipes, such as homemade pesto or this delicious Chicken Caprese salad. By preserving fresh basil, you can ensure that you will always have the herb whenever you need it!
Got more questions on how to preserve basil? Want to learn more recipes that use fresh basil? Let us know in the comments!