Thursday, June 20 2024

Growing basil in pots during the summer is very simple and can result in lush, fragrant plants from which to draw for many recipes.

So that you don’t have to give up this beloved aromatic plant when the first cold weather arrives, there are some simple solutions that allow you to keep the leaves alone longer, even to the point of having them available all winter long.






In the refrigerator

The refrigerator does not allow basil to go through the winter unscathed, but it can certainly extend the freshness of its leaves for several days. Packing basil leaves in a food bag and storing it in the refrigerator is a suitable solution only if you intend to use them soon (no later than 3 or 4 days).

To store basil longer in the refrigerator, it will be necessary to detach the entire stem from the plant and soak it in water using a glass jar. This solution, which is also valid for storing parsley, allows you to keep basil fresh for about ten days, remembering to change the water as you would with any cut flower.

In the freezer

Storing basil in the freezer is not complicated, but it does require preparing the leaves by washing them thoroughly and then very patiently drying them. You can then arrange them on a tray to put them in the freezer keeping them well separated from each other. Once frozen they can be quickly transferred to bags and containers of different sizes, adjusting the quantities with the intended use in mind.

A good idea is to divide the basil leaves into the cubes of an ice mold, so that only a small portion can be easily taken from time to time for use in the recipe. Not recommended, however, is to blanch the basil leaves before freezing them, as this would inevitably compromise their aroma and taste.

Fresh basil will keep in the home freezer for up to 5 months.

Under oil

Basil can also be preserved in oil. After washing and drying them to perfection, you arrange the leaves in a sterilized glass jar, adding salt and covering everything with olive oil. As with all home preserves, and especially pickles in oil, we recommend following the Ministry of Health’s directions for sealing the containers and keeping yourself safe from the risk of bacterial contamination and intoxication.

Oil and salt can also help preserve basil in sauce form: chopped or crushed, seasoned and finally frozen. By doing so, you already have a ready-made base to which you can eventually add the missing ingredients for a Genoese-style pesto.

In salt

A simple but effective solution to preserve basil for up to 3 months is to put it in salt. Start, as with pickling in oil, by washing and drying the leaves, selecting if possible the freshest and healthiest ones, and then place them in a jar-sterilized and airtight-interspersed and then covered with layers of salt. You close the jar and store it in the pantry, in a cool place, away from light and moisture. It is advisable to top up the salt in the jar each time it is used.

When using the basil in the recipe you will keep in mind that the leaves will already be flavorless and adjust accordingly, avoiding overdoing the salt in the recipe.


A final option is drying, which is possible but in the case of basil does not provide excellent results in terms of aroma and taste and requires great care to avoid mold growth.

To properly dry basil, it is a good idea to peel the leaves off the plant before it flowers, taking care to leave a sufficiently long part of the stem so that they can be tied together. After they have been washed and dried to perfection, the leaves should in fact be grouped in bunches and hung in an airy, dry room for at least two weeks before being picked and, if drying is successful, easily crumbled.

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