Basil: picking, selecting, storing
24 Oct 2013 10.02 am by Renny Wijeyamohan
Basil is a delicious and fragrant plant that’s typically used in Italian cooking. Tasty when added to a pizza or when blended with pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan to make a pesto – basil is a kitchen essential for the avid cook. Basil is a great source of Vitamins A, C, K and B6 as well as a number of minerals. It’s also rich in flavonoids and is anti-inflammatory as well as good for cardiovascular and respiratory health.
When picking basil wait until your plants have about 5 or 6 leaves before harvesting.
You can either pick off individual leaves when required, or harvest a section of the plant all at once. If you do this, cut the desired section off from the main stem, but don’t cut any further then below the second leaf set. The basil plant will form new branches at the cut and the more you harvest each branch with this method, the quicker your basil plant will turn into a basil bush. If you spot any flower buds trim them off quickly, this will stop your basil from blooming. A plant that has bloomed is no longer good to harvest.
It’s a good idea to water your basil plant the night before you intend to pick the basil leaves. This will make sure the leaves are as fresh as can be and will keep well in storage.
When selecting basil look for leaves that are a deep green or purple colour and that are crisp and fragrant. Avoid leaves that are yellow, wilted, soft or that have spots or blemishes on them – all these could be signs of decay.
If you intend to use your basil immediately, pick it straight from the plant and add it to your dish. However, if there is a time delay between when you want to pick and use your basil consider freezing.
Refrigeration is not recommended for basil since it can cause “cold injuries” which can cause the basil to dehydrate and turn black. If you’re planning on freezing basil you can either chop it first and then put it in plastic freezer bags or simply freeze the whole sprig.
A handy tip is to use bags that are about the size of a “serving” of basil, that way you can use each bag quickly and easily in your cooking. You can also try freezing basil with water in an ice cube container – this will help to preserve its fresh taste. Frozen basil will last up to 6 months.
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