Basil is an aromatic herb that provides a fresh flavor to any recipe that you use it in. However, this versatile herb does not stay fresh for long. So how long does basil last?
Basil stays fresh as long as it is still growing. Basil can wilt pretty quickly, sometimes even before you have had a chance to use it.
When properly stored, fresh basil can last up to 10 days. With different ways of preservation, basil can be used for more than a year, too.
However, no matter how well you store or preserve it, basil will lose its original flavor over time, even if it stays in a good condition.
How to store fresh basil?
Short-term stored basil will not stay fresh for long and can be used up to 10 days at the most. Here are a couple of ways you can store fresh basil for a few days.
Flower bouquet method
You can store freshly cut basil just like you would a bouquet of flowers.
Many herbs with a soft stem, including basil, can be stored like a bouquet in water, to keep them fresh.
Following are the steps to store basil like a bouquet:
- Trim the stems.
- Place in a jar with a few inches of water. Make sure the stem is covered in water, but not the leaves.
- You can cover the top loosely with a plastic sheet or bag. Make sure the basil can breathe easily.
- Leave the basil at room temperature. Do not refrigerate it, as exposed basil will not survive in the cold. Some herbs like parsley or cilantro do well when refrigerated after this method, but basil will turn black.
- Change the water every few days.
- When you want to use the leaves, wash and dry them before using.
Stored this way, fresh basil can last up to 2 weeks.
Towel method for storing fresh basil
Another method to store freshly harvested basil is to use a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel.
- Pick the leaves off the stems.
- Lay them on layers of paper towel or a kitchen towel in a single layer.
- Roll up the towel around the leaves.
- Put the roll in a plastic bag.
This method ensures that the basil remains hydrated, yet does not become damp or wet.
Preserving Basil for longer duration
Here are some ways in which you can preserve basil for longer periods of time.
A. Preserving in salt
Here are the steps that you can take to preserve the basil in salt
- Remove the leaves from the stems. Rinse and dry them gently.
- In a container with a lid, pour half an inch layer of salt at the bottom. Then add a layer of basil leaves and sprinkle them with salt from above. Press gently but be careful not to break the leaves.
- Continue adding layers till you reach the top of the container. Then close the container with the lid and shake the container to ensure that all the leaves are covered in salt. Add more salt if required.
- Place the container in a cool and dry place.
If stored properly, these leaves can last for up to 6 months. You can also use the salt to season your recipes as it becomes more flavorful.
B. Preserving in oil
Here are the steps that you can take to preserve the basil in salt
- Clean the leaves and dry them well.
- Place the leaves in a glass jar.
- Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt to it.
- Shake the jar well to make sure that all the leaves are coated with salt.
- Fill the container with olive oil, making sure that all the leaves are immersed in it.
- Close the jar and refrigerate it. This way the leaves will stay good in the refrigerator for months.
You can use the leaves directly without rinsing. Also, you can use the oil for your recipes, as the oil will be infused with basil and thus be more flavorful.
You can also make a basil-infused olive oil by using the process of double boiling for 30 to 60 minutes on the lowest heat.
Then after cooling, you can strain the basil and keep the oil in a glass bottle. You can also add basil leaves to it for extra taste.
C. Freezing Basil leaves for preserving
Here are simple ways you can preserve the Basil leaves by Freezing.
Freezing whole leaves:
You can freeze whole leaves and use them just as you would use fresh leaves. The only thing you will have to pay attention to is that the frozen basil will shrink, so the measurements for fresh basil and frozen basil will differ.
Here are the simple steps you can take to freeze whole basil leaves for preserving
- Blanching: Pick off the leaves from the stems and blanch them in boiling water for about 2 seconds.
- Ice bath: Shock the leaves by instantly transferring them into ice-cold water and stopping the cooking process.
- Dry: Dry the leaves completely. Store them in a container with a parchment or wax paper separating the layers.
- Freeze: Freeze the leaves in the container.
There is an even easier way to freeze whole basil leaves:
- Take whole leaves by picking them off the stem.
- Make sure they are dried completely.
- Put them inside a freezer bag. Press out all the air from the bag and seal it.
Freezing with water:
- Tear basil into small pieces that can fit in an ice-tray.
- Add water to the leaves.
- Freeze it.
- Whenever you need to use the leaves, you can just remove the cubes and unfreeze it and use the leaves as per your requirement.
Freezing with oil:
If you are using basil for cooking recipes like pasta, pesto, soups, or salads, you can freeze basil by pureeing basil leaves with olive oil and turning them into ice cubes.
- Remove basil from the stems.
- Wash and dry them completely.
- With the help of a food processor, turn the basil leaves into a puree by using olive oil.
- Pour the mixture into an ice tray and freeze it.
- Once the ice cubes are formed, remove the ice cubes and transfer them into a re-sealable plastic bag or a freezer-safe container.
- Tear the basil leaves and put them in an ice-cube tray.
- Pour olive oil over them.
- Freeze it.
- Tear the basil leaves with your hands instead of chopping them with a knife. Using a knife bruises the leaves and turns them black.
- Use when needed.
Frozen basil will last 4 to 6 months in the freezer.
You can also make a pesto or basil vinegar out of the basil leaves to preserve the basil.
You can easily get dried basil in any store, but you do not know how long it has been sitting on the shelves.
Dry basil has a more intense flavor than fresh basil and is generally 3 to 4 times stronger. Drying your own basil can be a fresher, easier, and cheaper option.
Here are the steps that you can take for Air drying
- Pick the stems off the plant before it starts flowering. Remove the leaves from the stem, but leave around 2 cm of stem with the leaves.
- Rinse the leaves to clean any dirt or dust.
- Place the leaves in a single layer on a clean towel and press another towel on the top.
- Gently pat and dry the leaves. If they are not completely dry, they could develop mold while air drying.
- Once the leaves are dry, group them in bunches by tying together the stems.
- Hang the bunches and let them dry in a room with good sunlight and air ventilation.
It will take about 2 weeks for the leaves to dry completely.
Then you can remove the leaves and crumble them with your fingers and store them in a jar to be used when required.
Here are the steps that you can take for drying using Microwave
- Wash the basil leaves and pat them dry gently and completely.
- Layer your basil on a paper towel and cover it with another paper towel.
- Place it in the microwave on medium to high power for 30 seconds. Use the setting that works for your microwave, since all microwaves have different power settings.
- Take them out and let them cool for about 30 seconds before checking to see if any of the leaves are dry or crumbly. Remove the dry leaves and rotate the ones that aren’t and keep them in the microwave for another 30 seconds.
- Once all the leaves are done, let them cool for an hour and then store them in a paper bag or a container.
If you are not sure if your basil leaves are fully dry, keep them in the freezer.
Keep the basil leaves as intact as you can. Crush them only when you need to use it. This will retain maximum flavor.
Here is how you can dry the basil using an oven:
- Wash and dry the basil thoroughly.
- Remove the leaves from the stems.
- Set your oven to the lowest temperature.
- Arrange the basil on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 2 to 4 hours, until the leaves become dry and start to crumble.
- Once the basil cools completely, crush the dried basil and store it in an airtight container.
- Use it whenever needed.
Make sure that the leaves are completely dry before storing them. Even a hint of moisture can turn them moldy after a while.
The ratio of the basil will be 1 teaspoon dried basil for 1 tablespoon fresh basil, as with most other dried herbs.
Also, dry basil is more potent than fresh basil, so you will require a lesser amount of dry basil if you are substituting it for fresh basil in a recipe.
Basil dried this way can be used for up to 1 to 2 years.
Using a dehydrator:
While expensive, food dehydrators guarantee you the highest quality of dried herbs.
It is a good way to dry high-quality herbs because the temperature and air circulation can be controlled.
- Place the basil on a tray.
- Set the temperature to 90 degrees.
- The basil will take 6 to 12 hours to be dried completely.