10 Useful Tips to Store Fresh Basil for a Prolonged Period

10 Useful Tips to Store Fresh Basil
One of the most popular herbs, basil, is known for its medicinal qualities as well as the flavor and nutrition it imparts to the food it is added in. If you grow your own basil, or have excess leaves left from a store-bought bunch, learning how to store fresh basil effectively can be very useful.
Did You Know?
Besides being useful in medicinal and culinary purposes, basil also has fungicidal and pest repellent properties. One may use its essential oils to keep away mosquitoes, and stop the spread of fungal infections.
While growing a herb garden, cultivating basil is a very popular choice. The plant belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae, and it is native to India, China, New Guinea, and some parts of Southeast Asia. It has a number of beneficial properties, which not only help in preventing and curing ailments, but is also an important ingredient in many cuisines across the world.

A basil plant is very easy to grow, and under the right conditions the herb can flourish and grow huge amounts of leaves and flowers, so much in fact, that you may have to prune the plant heavily, and make arrangements to store the cut basil without letting it spoil. This is because, although a basil plant is incredibly resilient from diseases and climatic changes, cut leaves start to lose their color and nutrition very quickly. So, let us look at the best ways to store fresh basil leaves, effectively, whether you want to store them overnight, for a few days, or a few weeks.

#1. Make cubes out of basil paste
Finely chop the basil leaves and mix it up in a food processor with some olive oil to create a smooth paste (Use a sharp knife to cut the leaves, because a blunt one will bruise the leaves making it lose out on nutrition). Put the paste into ice cube trays and freeze them. Whenever you need some fresh basil flavor in your food, add a basil cube in the dish. You may also use it as a dressing in salads. This is an effective technique which is useful especially for winter when fresh basil is scarce.

#2. Prepare basil flavored butter
Create a delicious basil flavored butter. For this you will require some softened unsalted butter. Whip the butter until it is airy and fluffed up. Add finely chopped basil leaves in the mixture (the amount of basil should depend on how strong you want the flavor to be), and mix it till the basil has spread throughout the butter. Put the mixture inside butter paper and tightly wrap it. Freeze the basil butter until you need to use it.

#3. Make basil vodka
Prepare a basil vodka. This alcoholic recipe can be used for drinking or for flavoring hot food items. To create it you will need fresh and clean basil leaves, enough to loosely fill a glass container in which you will store the vodka. Place the leaves in the container, pour the vodka over the leaves till ¾ of the bottle is full. Keep the container in the fridge for at least 24 hours. This will infuse the flavor of the basil in the vodka (The longer you leave the basil in the vodka, more flavor will get infused in it). Use this flavored vodka in cocktails, or in quick-cooking dishes, but don't use the basil leaves in the vodka, because they will have lost all of their flavor to the liquid around them.

#4. Prepare basil pesto
Creating a basic pesto is another way to preserve the flavor of fresh basil. Use your own recipe, however make sure you add enough olive oil. This will keep the pesto fresh for longer. If you keep it refrigerated, in air-tight boxes, the pesto should stay usable for around a month's time.

#5. Refrigerate basil stalks
Placing the basil inside a plastic bag and refrigerating it will keep it fresh for 2-3 days. A better idea would be to place entire stalks of the basil plant along with its roots in a jar with a little water, and put the jar in the fridge. The leaves will stay fresh for a week or more.

#6. Freeze basil leaves
Place the leaves inside the freezer till they freeze. Immediately take them out and loosely place them in airtight containers. Put the containers back into the freezer. When you need to use the basil defrost them in cold water. This method will keep the shape of the leaves as they are. Blanching the leaves before freezing them will make sure that the rich green color stays intact too. Using ziploc bags instead of airtight containers also works.

#7. Cover in salt
This next method is useful to store basil leaves for long periods of time. In an empty container pour in a layer of salt that is around ½ inch thick. Place your basil leaves one by one to form a second layer on the salt. Cover the leaves with another thin layer of salt, followed by more leaves. Continue the process till you have alternating layers of basil and salt till the top of the container. Cover the topmost layer with a thick layer of salt and close the lid over it. Store the container in a cool and dry place. To use the leaves, just take them out of the container shake off the salt and use them as you wish. However, remember to replace the salt in the container as it was, to protect the remaining leaves from air pockets.

#8. Cover with salt and olive oil
Clean and dry the basil leaves. Place the leaves inside an air-tight container and sprinkle salt over them. Shake the container to ensure that the leaves are fully covered with salt. Now fill the container with olive oil, close the lid tight, and store it inside the fridge. The leaves and the oil can be used for cooking whenever needed. This method can keep the leaves fresh for a few months.

#9. Prepare basil flavored vinegar
To make a cool and exiting basil flavored vinegar, you will need fresh basil leaves, cider vinegar, and a opaque container, which can be shut tightly. Put ¼ cup of basil leaves for every two cups of vinegar in the container and shut it tight. Place the closed container in a cool and dark place. After 4-5 weeks your basil vinegar will be ready for use in your food.

#10. Dry basil leaves
Although drying the leaves is not as effective in storing the flavor of basil leaves, it is still use by a lot of people across the globe. To dry the leaves, use a clean window screen, and lay the leaves on it with a little distance between each of them. Cover the leaves with a light breathable cloth, and place the screen in a dark, dry, and warm area, with good ventilation. The leaves will partially dry after 2 weeks. Check to see if they feel crisp in texture. If they do, heat the leaves in an oven at 100ºF for 10-15 minutes with the oven door slightly open. Remove from the oven and let the leaves completely cool. Now, store the dried leaves in an airtight container. The leaves will be usable for around a year. During this time, regularly check the leaves for signs of moisture, and dry them in the oven if necessary. This will prevent mold from forming on the leaves. Alternately, you can crumble the leaves before storing them in the container.

Pick the leaves off a basil plant before the flowering starts to get the best flavor. The best time to do this is early in the morning after the dew dries off, but before the sunlight hits the plant. Follow the above tips and enjoy the flavor of fresh basil in soups, sauces, and other delicious cooked dishes.
Summer cocktail with basil leaf
Herb butter in a bowl
Small bowl of green pesto
Basil leaves frozen
Glasses of condiments next to drink
Dry basil