How To Harvest and Preserve Basil: Full Guide for Beginners

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Basil is an essential component in various dishes from different cultures, regardless of whether it is in its fresh or dried form.

That’s why this aromatic plant is one of the most popular kitchen herbs, period.

It’s also no surprise that basil has found its place among the world’s short list of most-grow plants in home gardens.

Read on below to learn how to harvest and preserve your fresh basil plants.

How To Harvest Basil

Harvesting basil is quick and easy compared to many herbs. The first step to harvesting your basil is deciding how much you need/want to collect and prepare at one time. 

Are you cooking and require a bit of fresh basil? Are you preparing to harvest an entire crop?

Depending on the answer, you can harvest a pinch or two of basil from any of your plants or choose to harvest all of the basil from your garden at once.

In the following sections we break down both options in greater detail:

1. Harvesting a Pinch

When you only need a pinch or two of herb from your basil plant, all you need to do is snap off a small twig or two from as low down on the plant as possible. 

Alternatively, you may literally pinch off a single leaf or two from any healthy part of the plant if that is all you need.

When you are harvesting a pinch of basil, there is no need for pruners or scissors as your fingers are more than enough to get the job done.

2. Harvest the Entire Plant

Harvesting all of your basil at once is a bit more work, though it is still easy enough of a job when it comes right down to it.

To harvest an entire basil plant, follow these easy steps:

  1. Using pruners, snip the plant’s central stalk off approximately 1 or 2inches above the soil level.
  2. Remove any dead or unhealthy branches and leaves from the plant.
  3. Use pruners to cut branches away from the main stalk of the plant.
  4. Carefully remove all of the leaves from the stems/stalks.

How To Dry Basil

Drying basil is done in a number of ways using various equipment, including drying racks, mesh screens, and dehydrators. 

One of the oldest and easiest ways to dry basil is to cut long stems from the plants,, wash them, dry them with a towel, and then tie them into bundles.

Hang the bundles somewhere cool and dry and wait around 3 to 4 weeks for them to dry completely.

How To Preserve in Fridge 

Preserving basil in the fridge is popular for those who plan on eating, using, selling, or otherwise going through all of their fresh basil. 

All you need to do to preserve your fresh basil in the fridge is wash it, dry it with a towel, and store it in the fruits and vegetable drawer.

Alternatively, you can clean your basil, stick it in a jar or container, cover it with water, and then store it in the fridge like that. Don’t put a lid on the jar though — just cover it with cloth and a rubber band.

How To Preserve Fresh Basil in Olive Oil

Basil can be preserved in oil in several different ways. The main methods are jars, icetrays, and freezer bags.

The easiest way to store basil in oil is to clean and sterilize a glass bottle (like a wine bottle) with a cork.

Fill the glass bottle with oil, and add in a few sprigs of raw basil or a handful of dried basil. Either way works fine.  

How To Freeze Basil Leaves Without Blanching – 4 Methods

Blanching is a popular method of preparation for leafy veggies and herbs that makes the freezing process easier. In fact, it is pretty much a must-do before freezing most veggies if you don’t want them to lose their color, texture, and flavor.

However, basil doesn’t necessarily need to be blanched and may actually lose more flavor because of blanching. That’s why it’s a great idea to find a way to freeze your basil without blanching if you can.

If you want to properly freeze basil leaves without having to go through the blanching process first, try one of these three easy methods:

Pesto

Making pesto from your fresh basil is one of the best ways to get the herb into a freezable form without blanching.

Here are the steps to freezing basil as pesto:

  1. Prepare pesto to your specifications and liking.
  2. Scoop the pesto into the cubes of an icecube tray.
  3. Put the ice tray into your freezer for several hours.
  4. Remove the frozen pesto, and place the cubes in a freezer bag.
  5. Place the bag back into the freezer, and use it as needed.

Ice Cube Trays With Water

Freezing basil in ice cube trays with fresh water is another quick and easy way to store the herb without blanching it first.

Here are the steps to freezing basil with water and ice cube trays:

  1. Chop up the basil into small pieces.
  2. Fill up each cube in an ice tray with basil pieces.
  3. Pour water into each cube, just enough to cover the basil.
  4. Stick it in the freezer, and wait.

Freezing Basil in Olive Oil

The freezer has been helping people preserve their food for almost a century now, as has oil. Together, the two do an excellent job of extending the life of your basil.

Here are the steps to freezing basil in olive oil with no blanching:

  1. Chop basil into slices or fine pieces.
  2. Drizzle a bit of oil into a silicone ice tray.
  3. Add the basil to the ice trays.
  4. Top off the cubes of the tray with oil.
  5. Stick the ice tray in the freezer.

Preserving Basil in Salt

Salt is one of the oldest and surest methods for preserving foodstuff. It has been used to extend the shelf life of food for centuries, and basil is no exception.

  1. Clean and sterilize a plastic container with a lid.
  2. Fill the bottom of the container with a thin layer of salt.
  3. Add a thin layer of basil leaves to the salt.
  4. Repeat until the container is full.
  5. Put the lid on the container, and make sure it is airtight.
  6. Freeze the container.

Conclusion

Basil may be pinched off a few leaves at a time, or the whole plant may be harvested at once. The choice is yours.

Once you’ve harvested it, there are numerous ways to preserve basil: drying, freezing with water, freezing with oil, storing in oil, and even salting it.

Hopefully, our guide helps you quickly and effortlessly harvest your basil and preserve it the way that works best for you!