June 20, 2013

As you might already know, Justin and I currently have a little garden growing out in our backyard. We’ve got tomatoes (that are just now reaching the ripe stage – yay!), poblano and bell peppers, and basil. Lots and lots of basil.

picked basil leaves

Now, when fresh basil is around I do tend to find many uses for it. If you don’t already grow fresh basil at home: start doing it. You can grow it in an apartment in a pot – no need for a garden. The taste of fresh picked basil is oh so much better than the leaves you can buy at the grocery store – it’s more potent and fresh…and sweet. I love love love it! Anyway, with four plants producing leaves right now, I sometimes have a hard time keeping up with using all of my herbs. To keep picked basil leaves fresh for a few days, I place the stems in a shallow water dish and leave them sitting on my counter. I can take a few leaves at a time to season my dishes.

But what to do when I have a handful of basil leaves that I know I won’t be able to use before they wilt? Save them for later, that’s what! The whole process is really simple, and I am hoping that it will serve me well when my basil plant is no longer producing.

basil leaves

Preserve your fresh basil!

1. Start by separating the fresh basil leaves from their stems and thoroughly rinsing/washing the leaves. Pat dry with a clean towel/paper towel.

basil chiffonade

2. Cut the leaves into a chiffonade. I place 4-5 leaves on top of each other and roll them lengthwise, cigar-style. Then, I use a sharp knife to cut a chiffonade. Mine isn’t perfect: I’m working on it.

3. Next, distribute the cut basil into the wells of an ice cube tray. I filled my cubes about half way with the leaves.

basil and olive oil

4. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the wells with basil. I measure my olive oil for consistency with recipes, but you could also just fill the cubes until the basil is just covered with oil on top. You might need to use a fork/utensil to arrange the basil leaves a bit so they submerge in the oil completely.

basil and olive oil

5. When the cubes are filled, place them in the freezer (I place a lid/cover mine)! Pop a cube out when you need olive oil and herbs when cooking.

basil and olive oil

I am really digging this storage method so far. As you can see, my entire tray is not filled with basil yet. I have been adding to it gradually when I happen to have extra basil. I also love this ice cube tray I snagged at Home Goods – it is by Orka, and you can also find it at Target. The tray has a lid I can snap on top, which I appreciate – I don’t want my basil cubes out in the open if possible.

What is your all time favorite herb? Do you have any other herb preservation techniques you use?

10 Responses to “How to preserve your fresh basil”

  1. Wendy says:

    Great idea! I need to start doing this.

  2. I’ve been wanting to store my herbs like this for a LONG time but I’m so gosh darn lazy. First of all, I started a herb garden last year and sadly all my herbs died. The blame is 100% mine – I have the thumb of death and the aforementioned laziness working against me. Now I buy big bunches of herbs, use a little bit, then it rots in my fridge. SO BAD! I’m determined to freeze it from now on.

    • Katie says:

      I am so guilty of letting some things go bad too! I love cilantro, but the huge bunch that you get at the store is almost impossible for me to use up. Inevitably, it goes bad…sigh…

  3. Leslie says:

    This is so fancy!! Love this idea. Basil, cilantro, and Thai Basil are definitely my top 3. I’ve found that wrapping them loosely in a damp paper towel and then sticking them in a zip lock keeps them fresh for much longer after I pick or buy em :) I am SO gonna use this oil and herb frozen cube trick…too cool!

    • Katie says:

      Smart technique! I made the mistake of popping the herbs in the fridge once…dumb me didn’t realize that it would make them go bad faster! Whoooops.

  4. Megan says:

    SUCH a great idea! My basil grows uncontrollably but I love this for preserving the leaves!

    • Katie says:

      Let’s hope that it works out as well as I hope! I know that I’ll go through the cubes pretty fast…I always use olive oil and herbs for cooking…

  5. I love this, quick question though…do you pop them out once they’re ‘frozen’ and store them in a large bag or something or do you use lots of trays? I tried this method once and it all became a big mess in a freezer bag (I think it couldn’t handle the defrost cycle in the freezer door)

    • Katie says:

      Right now, I’m keeping them in the ice cube container. I haven’t filled one of them up all the way yet (since I’ve been using my basil pretty regularly at this point), but I plan to only fill 2-3 in the end for the sake of space. I did splurge on those Orka ice cube trays that have the lids on them…they have grooves on the lid that allow you to stack them really neatly in the freezer, so I am liking that a lot!

  6. I take basil leaves off the stems and arrange on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer—then I pack the frozen leaves into zip lock bags, date and place back into the freezer. The basil retains its fresh taste in recipes with no added oil.

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