Last weekend I harvested our first large batch of basil. Because there is no way we can use this much fresh basil in a timely fashion, I decided to try my hand at preserving it. The first method I’m using is to simply dehydrate it.
I don’t have a fancy schmancy dehydrator, but it’s been blisteringly hot and sunny here lately, so I decided to put the weather to good use. I washed the basil really well and picked it off the stem. Mind-numbing work, right there.
Then, using freshly scrubbed window screens, I simply laid the leaves in a single layer and topped it with another screen to keep bugs out. My plan was to leave this in the sun for a few hours and collect my dried leaves, crush them and store them in an airtight glass jar.
Mother Nature had other plans. While Mark and I were spreading the basil on the screen, we heard thunder rumbling in the distance.
Within a few minutes, we were moving the basil onto our covered porch and scrambling for cover ourselves. Not to worry, we figured we’d just wait until the storm rolled through and put the basil back out when the sunshine returned.
Guess what didn’t come back for three days? Yep. My solar basil dehydrator is kaput. We’re trying to salvage this batch by drying it in the basement where we run a dehumidifier 24/7. We’ll see if this works. Gardening (like life) is all one giant experiment, right?
For the second preserving method, I’m freezing a small batch of clean, destemmed and blanched purple basil in olive oil. The blanching process goes like this: Dip the basil into boiling water for two seconds (yes, two!), and transfer it immediately into an ice bath. I used a large, mesh strainer as my scoop for this process.
After blanching the basil, I chopped it finely in the food processor and spooned it into ice cube trays. Add a splash of olive oil to cover, and into the freezer it goes. Once the cubes were frozen solid, I popped them out of the tray and into a freezer bag. These basil cubes are perfect for adding to soups, sauces and homemade salad dressings.
I’m planning to experiment with oven drying fresh herbs later in the growing season. But while it’s hotter than blue blazes in Virginia, I’ll do nearly anything to avoid heating up the house.
If you have a favorite method for preserving herbs, leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it!
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