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When Basil Explodes

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >


By Ann McCormick

I can always spot a basil enthusiast. They’re the ones in early spring you find at the checkout line with enough basil plants to start a small commercial farm. They go home and eagerly plant their darlings everywhere possible.

Then comes summer. Those cute little 4-inch potted plants have grow to cinematic proportions, bullying their neighbors and threatening a hostile takeover of the garden. It’s time to start harvesting.

What to do with all that luscious, fresh basil? Use it, of course, but unless you plan on basil pesto for breakfast, lunch, and dinner there will be plenty left over. The solution to this basil explosion is preservation. Here are three ways to do this:

  • Dry It – Remove the leaves from the basil stems and spread on a towel or screen. Allow to dry for 7-10 days, stirring daily to encourage drying out. When the leaves are crackly dry store whole in an airtight container for later use.
  • Frozen Leaves – Remove the leaves from the stems and spread on a cookie sheet. Place in the freezer for about 20 minutes or until the leaves are stiff. Gather them together into a zip-lock bag and return to freezer. Remove leaves as needed in the coming months.
  • Basil Ice Cubes – Harvest at least four cups of leaves and place in a food processor with the mixing blade. Add water a quarter cup at a time while processing until a pourable slush forms. Pour this into an ice cube tray and freeze. Remove cubes from tray and place in zip-lock bag for later use.