Harvest, Storage and Using Your Basil
thing in the morning, when the essential oils of the plants are most
concentrated, harvest mature leaves. A dual purpose practice is to
regularly pinch back the growing tips of your plants. These trimmings
can be used in the kitchen and the pruning of the growing tips
stimulates branching which will result in sturdy, bushier plants.
Whatever your harvesting practice, do not reduce your plant's foliage by
more than one-third and allow it to recover before harvesting from the
same plant again. After harvesting and since basil is a leafy green
plant, encourage growth by feeding a good, balanced fertilizer.
essential oils (the components that provide the flavors and fragrance)
are as noted previously, quite fragile. That is, they are easily lost.
Harvesting at their peak in the morning is the first step but how you
store it is also critical.
For long-term storage, basil leaves
can be dried and used as seasoning. In fact, many recipes call for dried
basil rather than fresh, as the flavor is more subtle and
complimentary. However, the best way to store basil past the fresh use
stage, while preserving full-flavor, is to do
what Denise does. She takes the leaves and either chops them or runs
them through the food processor. As quickly as possible, they are then
placed into ice cube trays and frozen. Once solid, she removes them and
either stores them in freezer bags or for longer term, in vacuum sealed
bags. Then throughout the year we can thaw and enjoy "fresh" basil in
dishes, drop a cube into sauce or soups, or make into pesto.
the growing season, you can take your clippings, wrap the cut ends in a
damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They
will last a week or two using this method but we generally either just
go out and harvest what we need, fresh, or if it is a period where we
have an abundance, process for long-term storage as described.