Basil is one of the most popular herbs for gardening and cooking. This hardy herb is easy to grow and perfect for beginners. If your basil did well in the garden you may be looking at several large plants wondering what to do with all of that basil. You are not alone. This is a common issue for gardeners new to growing basil. Read on to learn how to harvest, preserve and use Basil.
How to harvest basil
Once your basil is ready you may be wondering what to do with it. You can harvest basil in small bits as needed all season long. Be sure to do so regularly to encourage your basil to grow and produce more. When you are ready to harvest do so in the early morning as this is when the leaves are the most hydrated and have a nice strong flavour.
To harvest basil pinch off bits with your fingers or use clean dry sheers. Always sterilize your garden shears before using them to prevent them from spreading disease.
When harvesting leave the bottom set of leaves on each stem to allow your plants to keep growing. At the end of the growing season, you can remove all of the leaves to preserve.
How to preserve your basil harvest
When you have more basil than you can use or give away it doesn’t take long to realise you need to preserve your basil for later use.
Basil can be dried and stored in airtight jars with a moisture absorber to help keep it fresh and flavorful for the long term. This is the easiest and most space-efficient way to store basil and perfect if you do not know exactly what you will be using it for later.
Place full dried leaves in olive oil and let sit for 2 weeks to make a flavorful basil infused oil for cooking. Dry the leaves first for a stronger flavor and longer shelf life for the finished product.
Basil can be mixed with other Italian herbs and infused in butter for a flavorful cooking tool perfect for frying eggs or roasting potatoes and chicken.
For the best results when drying basil opt to use a dehydrator to speed up the process and prevent mold from becoming an issue. If you do not have a dehydrator you can hang them to dry in a cool dark place for 2-3 weeks until dry enough to crumble with your bare hands.
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How to use fresh basil
Basil has many uses but the best-known one is perhaps classic basil pesto. This Italian staple is made with fresh basil and packed with amazing flavor. You can use pesto in recipes or with pasta for a flavorful addition.
Classic Caprese salad is an Italian staple using fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and fresh sweet basil.
Fresh basil leaves can add a wonderful touch to a fresh salad for a simple flavor addition that no one would expect.
Top a pizza or lasagna with basil as a quick and colorful garnish.
Add basil to sautéed fish and chicken dishes for a dash of flavor fresh from the garden.
Basil is particularly good with potatoes sautéed with butter and garlic.