Basil Questions

Fresh homegrown aromatic and culinary basil herbs in flower pot on rural wooden table
Basil is the key ingredient in pesto sauce. istetiana / Getty Images

Q. What are some basic basil facts?

A. Summer is the best time to buy fresh basil, because it is plentiful and cheap at farmers' markets around the country. Keep basil and other herbs fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Place the stems in water, cover the leaves loosely with a plastic bag or plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator, changing the water every few days.

Q. How do I store basil?

Q. How do I store basil?


A. The best way to preserve herbs for future use is to dry them, but for many herbs, freezing is a good alternative. As you've found, frozen herbs aren't going to be suitable for garnishing, because they turn limp after they thaw. Still, many herbs can be frozen after you wash, drain, and dry them with paper towels.

Just overwrap the herbs with plastic wrap, and store them in resealable plastic freezer bags. Basil is quite delicate, though, and requires some preparation before you can freeze it for future use.

First, wash the basil leaves. Then, chop them finely, and mix them with enough good-quality olive oil to make a thick paste.

Freeze level tablespoons of this paste in ice cube trays, then pop out the cubes and store them in resealable plastic freezer bags until you need them for dishes. Be aware that plastic ice cube trays may become stained.

Q. What is basil?

A. Basil, a member of the mint family, is a key herb in Mediterranean cooking. Fresh basil has a flavor somewhat between licorice and cloves. There are several varieties of basil, most of which are green, except for opal basil, which has purple-black leaves.

Fresh basil can be added to a variety of dishes to boost their flavors. The most popular use is in pesto sauce, which is a blend of fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pine nuts. Basil leaves are also chopped and added to salad dressings, pizza or pasta sauces or even potato salad.


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