Basil is my favorite herb. I love it for its taste as well as its fragrance. Last year I planted some basil, but it died. So this year, I planted twice as much. I started several plants from seed, but they didn't do well, so I picked up a couple of starter plants from a local nursery. They did great.
It's now the end of the season, and the plants were trying their hardest to go to seed. I couldn't keep up with the flower plucking (if you let a basil plant go to seed, the plant will put on a bitter taste), so I decided to go ahead and harvest them.
I dehydrated the first plant, and wound up with two pint-jars of dried basil leaves, which is plenty even for me. I also like to have fresh basil on hand, but that's more difficult in the winter, for obvious reasons. Here's a way to preserve "fresh" basil for use during the non-growing season.
Even though I was diligent in removing flowers or seed pods, a few got by me. As I cleaned and stripped the plant, I saved any dried seed pods I came across. I will collect the seeds from those later.
Once I had a full blender, I just added some olive oil and blended. You can use a different oil if you want. I didn't measure the oil as I poured it in. The idea is to add enough to coat the chopped leaves, which will help with cohesiveness and also help the basil keep its color after freezing, which is what I'm going to do with this once I'm finished.
I set the blender on medium at first, but the leaves are so light that the blender's centrifugal force just blew the leaves to the sides where the blades couldn't reach. So I used the lower setting, which helped some. I still had to stop the blender and use a spoon to push the leaves back in reach of the blades a few times. If you own a food processor, you might have better luck using that over a blender. I just don't happen to own one.
To loosen the basil from the tray, I tried the twisting trick that usually works for ice cubes, but it didn't work so great. I wound up using a knife to loosen up the basil cubes. Not that the basil was really stuck to the trays - I probably could have just turned the trays over and dumped out the basil, but I was trying to be neat.
The cubes came out mostly whole. This is the second time I've processed basil in this way. I think the first time I did it, the cubes held together better. I might have used less oil this time than I did previously.
We typically use these cubes to add to spaghetti sauce. However, they are also good for adding to soups and omelets, or you can drop one into your pan when cooking up meats or stir fry, too. You can use this in any recipe that calls for fresh basil (unless you need whole leaves, of course). This year's basil has a stronger flavor than the stuff I had two years ago, so I add half of a cube to a dish at a time, to make sure the taste isn't overpowering.
After the cubes are removed from the trays, I just store them in the freezer in sealable sandwich bags. You can leave them tightly wrapped in the trays if you want, but the baggies take up less freezer space. Any crumbs or broken cubes go into the bags with the whole cubes. Since I have so much this year, I might seal some in FoodSaver bags, to better protect against frostbite.
So there you have it. Yummy, "fresh" basil preserved for winter use.
I left a small part of the plant in the ground and will allow it to go to seed, so I can collect the seeds for next year.