How to Grow, Preserve and Use Basil

Basil tends to be one of the most popular herbs to grow during the warm summer months. When planning out my raised-bed garden this year, I made sure to reserve space for multiple basil plants. It has a variety of culinary uses and can also be used in homemade natural cleaning products like this All-Purpose Cleaner.

You may be surprised to learn about the amazing health benefits of basil! Not only does it have anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties, but is also said to help fight depression and promote a healthy cardiovascular system.

 

Growing and Pruning Basil

Basil plants require full sun, so if growing inside, you will want to use a grow light or place in a southern facing window. Make sure you water it often and use well-drained soil so that the roots are not deprived of oxygen.

Basil can be planted anytime throughout the year if you are growing it indoors. If you are planning on starting the seeds indoors and then transplanting, plant them about six weeks before the last frost. Here is more information on how to start seeds indoors. The seeds can also be directly sown into the ground once the danger of frost has passed.

Basil is great to grow if you are limited on space. I have a relatively small raised bed garden, but because basil can be planted every 12 inches, I can fit 16 plants in a 4×4 raised bed! It grows well next to tomatoes and peppers and oregano. Make sure to water the plant at it’s base and not from the top of the leaves.

Once the plant is approximately six inches tall, you can begin harvesting the leaves. If you prune the plant often, you can count on approximately 1/2 cup of basil leaves per week from each plant.

 

Preserving Basil

There are several different ways you can preserve basil, and other herbs from your garden,  including freezing, air drying and dehydrating. Picking a preservation method is really dependent on what you want to use it for, so keep that in mind.

Freezing

Basil can be frozen in oil, water or broth. This method is perfect if you want to make pesto in the future but don’t have enough basil for a full batch. Frozen herbs can be used to saute with any meal or can be thawed out to make dressing or flavor soups. Follow these four simple steps to freeze your basil leaves!

  • Wash the basil in cold water
  • Remove leaves from the stem
  • Place basil leaves in a food processor with olive oil, water or broth and puree until smooth. Use approximately one tablespoon of liquid for each cup of basil leaves.
  • Pour the puree into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid. Transfer cubes to a freezer bag or other airtight container and store in the freezer until ready to use.

Air Drying

Air drying herbs is a lengthier process than using the dehydrator or oven but works just as well if you have the patience. It is important to hang the herbs in a cool, dry place without much humidity.Using the air drying method can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks, but is very easy and convenient if you have a lot of basil.

One method of air drying that has worked well for me is to hang basil from a clothesline.

  • Hang a clothesline (or any type of thin rope) indoors in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight.
  • Separate herbs into small bunches and tie the stems together with kitchen twine.
  • Use clothes pins to hang basil, stem side up, on the line.
  • Check herbs regularly. They are done when they are completely dry and crumble easily between your fingers.
  • Store whole leaves (this preserves flavor) in a spice jar or other airtight container for up to 6 months. Crumble dried leaves when you are ready to use them.

Dehydrating

Dehydrating basil is a much faster compared to air drying, but has the same end result. This method is also a good one to use if you are wanting to preserve basil to use as a spice in cooking. Using a dehydrator is the quickest way to dry herbs and probably the one I use most often. Follow the steps below to dehydrate your own basil!

  • Wash basil in cold water and set on a towel to dry.
  • Remove leaves from stems and arrange on the dehydrator tray so that the leaves have enough space for air to circulate around them.
  • Use the setting recommended on your dehydrator (usually around 90°-95°F), and dehydrate until the leaves are dry enough to crumble in your hands.
  • Store whole leaves (this preserves flavor) in a spice jar or other airtight container for up to 6 months. Crumble dried leaves when you are ready to use them.

 

Practical Uses for Basil

Fresh herbs are one of my favorite things to grow! I love being able to harvest them from the garden and use them right away in the kitchen. While they are very versatile, fresh herbs are only available for a short season.

Learning how to dry and store herbs is very important if you want to be able to use them all year long. I use dried herbs to add flavor to meals, make teas, and for use in medicinal compresses and tinctures. Listed below are some other ways I like to use basil!

Pesto (Try our Dairy Free Garlic Basil Pesto!)

Lemon and Basil All-Purpose Cleaner

Use as a garnish for dishes such as this Gluten Free Alfredo Sauce.

Make delicious soup like this Instant Pot Tomato Soup.

Basil Salt only requires two ingredients- basil and coarse sea salt! Click here for the easy recipe.

Drying and storing herbs may seems intimidating at first but it really is very simple. I promise that ANYONE can do this by using one of the easy methods mentioned above in this post. What is your favorite way to use basil?

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