My Square Foot Garden: Preserving Basil

Last year, I had scads of basil and froze a little. Before the winter was hardly even started, I had put a big dent in what was in the freezer. I kicked myself for not freezing more and vowed to never let that happen again. I spent more money than I care to think about on the little squinchy containers of fresh basil from the supermarket when I’d neglected to utilize my resources. Rather than post pictures this week that are almost identical to last week’s, I decided I would start a pictorial series of what the raw vegan (aka raw foodist)—and anyone else—can do to preserve the harvest.

There aren’t very many avenues of preservation open to the raw foodist. Freezing and dehydrating are two and neither would be considered optimal. However, you do what you have to do to put food on the table. A third is fermenting but that’s an altogether different ball of wax. I’ve chronicled my making of kim chee elsewhere on my blog but that’s as far as I’ve gone with fermenting. I got an email from merm not too long ago that he had made pickles in their crock but I haven’t ventured there yet.

A few years ago, one of the nursing staff and I were discussing basil and I said I wished I could do something with it besides drying it. Dried basil doesn’t have the same bright flavor that fresh does. She said, “Freeze it!” and she told me how to do it. It’s pretty basic. And it’s easy. Two of my favorite things.

Since basil is an ingredient rather than something you would make a meal on, it doesn’t have to take up that much room in the freezer.

First, I harvested a good hand full of basil from the garden.

Basil fresh from the garden

I don’t wash it. You can if you want. It’s my preference not to. It isn’t dirty—at least mine isn’t. Maybe the rain has splashed mud onto yours. Anyway, I pinch any buds out of the top (they can be bitter) and fold the leaves up into a bunch. These are some scissors I inherited from my mother. I washed them well and use them in the kitchen now. I snip away at the leaves.

Snipped into pieces

Here’s a goodly amount shredded and ready for the next step. The edges may get a little brown but we are going for flavor here, not looks.

Ready for the ice tray

I pack the ice tray as tightly as I can with the shredded basil.

Packing the tray

It doesn’t matter if some of the sections are fuller than others. This isn’t rocket science. When I get them full, I pour in purified water to the top of the tray. I don’t stop at the top of the sections. I go as close as I can to the top of the tray, itself.

Filled with purified water

Then it goes into the freezer until it’s frozen solid.

Out of the freezer

Once frozen, it can be tricky to get out of the tray. I tried twisting the tray but it was stuck, for sure. When I was a child, my mother had ice trays with levers that would move the sections and pop the ice cubes out but I haven’t seen any of those for years. With this plastic one, I turn it over and run water (cold is fine) on the bottom. Then I twist it over a bowl and pop the cubes out.

Frozen basil

At this point, they are really rather pretty. Kind of like green jewels. Break them apart and put them in a labeled freezer bag and (TADA!!) put them back in the freezer. I can keep adding to the bag until it’s full and then start another one.

Bagged for the freezer

To use, I put one cube in one recipe of Matt’s Dip. I like it very basil-y. Try varying the amount of basil in the sections if less is wanted. But why would you want less?

My goal is not to buy ANY basil and have enough to last me until next year’s crop is ready. I should be able to make it, no problem.

8 Responses to My Square Foot Garden: Preserving Basil

  1. Tricia March 3, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    I should have done this last year but now my basil is all gone. I just planted another one in my garden but it is puny compared the the enormous amount I got from my basil last year. Boo….why didn’t I know this before? Oh well, never again though!

    • Tommie March 3, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

      I froze so much, I still have plenty left. Too bad I can’t share with you!

    • Tommie June 25, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

      It’s each to his/her own, Tricia! Whatever works for you.

  2. Observ3 June 24, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    I keep reading about freezing, but I’m trying dehydration first. With something as simple to dry as basil I’d rather not use the energy and space to freeze it. Rather save that for things that really can’t be preserved easily otherwise. Basil does lose a bit of flavor from drying, but not too much.

  3. Jenn July 29, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    Do you just let it thaw and then use?

    • Tommie July 30, 2011 at 6:53 am #

      I use it as an ingredient so I just throw in one or two cubes depending on how pronounced I want the flavor to be. It doesn’t work well as a garnish after it’s been frozen.

  4. mike January 14, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    pesto! I freeze 3/4 cup servings flat in plastic bags. They thaw in a flash and taste like summer basil.

    • Tommie January 14, 2012 at 8:27 am #

      Mike, that is a great idea! Thanks!!

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