Basil is probably my most favorite and most-used herb. It is a must-have in my garden every year. I always plant plenty so the plants can get nice and big and I can dry the leaves at the end of the season.
When growing basil, make sure to not let it flower or go to seed. Do this by picking off the flowers as they appear, or simply harvesting it regularly. When harvesting, don’t go more than a third to halfway down per stem at a time, and be sure to use sharp scissors so as to not damage the plant. The energy of the plant will then go to making more leaves, and therefore more herb for you to use.
In the fall when the cold comes or is threatening to come, harvest the basil. It’s usually the first crop I will clean out of the garden in the fall since it doesn’t tolerate as cold of temperatures as other crops. Better to harvest early than to risk it freezing on a cold night.
After harvesting, preserve the basil. I like to dry it in my garage. Follow these simple steps.
How to air dry basil in your garage:
- Cut basil at the base of the plant, remove any damaged leaves or stems (what you preserve is what you eat).
- Wash the stems/leaves in clean water.
- Dry with a towel.
- Tie a string around the base of a bunch (don’t have too many stems in a bunch or it will increase the drying time).
- Hang the bunch from the ceiling. If you have multiple bunches, space them out. (Ceiling shelves or hooks work great.)
- After a few weeks the basil should be dry (you’ll know it’s done if it crumbles in your hand).
- Remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container until use. Pulse dried leaves in a blender if desired.
You can also follow these same basic steps for other herbs like rosemary, oregano, or even coriander. (With coriander, instead of harvesting the cilantro leaves you’ll need to let the plant go to seed then harvest the little coriander seeds once they’re dry.)
The fresh taste of homegrown and home-dried and preserved herbs to your cooking is sure to please.