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5 Ways to Freeze Fresh Basil

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Do you grow Basil in your garden?  If you do, chances are you always end up with a way more than you can possibly use fresh.  Today, we’ll talk about 5 ways to freeze fresh basil.  I’ll talk about my favorite way and why I think it is best. And then, I want you to share yours with us!

Basil is actually one of the easiest herbs to grow and it will grow most anywhere.  The great news is since it grows so abundantly, it can be stored in many different ways.

So with all that said, if you like basil, the possibilities are pretty much limitless when it comes to different ways to freeze fresh basil or just to preserve basil in some way.  Let’s get started!

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How to Harvest Basil

If you are growing basil, then you will need to know how to harvest basil.

You may begin picking basil when the plant is only 6-8 inches tall.  Harvesting leaves actually encourages the plant to produce more leaves and continue growth.  The best time to harvest is early in the morning when its flavors are at their highest. Of course,  it can be picked any time you need it  – it’s flavor may not be a robust in the heat of the day.

On average a well maintained basil plant will produce about 4-8 cups of basil in a single growing season. This makes it easy to see why if you are growing basil, you probably have plenty to store.

Harvesting in Small Amounts

You can actually pick only a few leaves at a time to use as fresh basil.  Cut or pinch off at the node where you see baby leaves growing out from the larger leaves and then give you basil a good drink of water.

Demo of Where to Pinch Basil
Choose Where to Pinch Basil to Encourage Growth

Don’ t fret by doing this, I promise this will encourage your plant to grow bushier and larger.  You’ll be happy you did.

To Harvest in Larger Amounts

If you are over ran by basil and need your plant to slow down a bit, you can slow it without killing it.  You always want to harvest from the top down.  I know that sounds so strange because many other herbs, but harvest from the bottom up.

Begin by removing the top one-third of the plant.  Making sure that when you cut or pinch off, you are doing so at a leaf node with baby leaves sprouting.  Don’t leave an exposed leafless stem.  By removing such a large amount at one time, it will help to slow production of your plant do just a bit.  It will be ready to harvest again in a few weeks rather than days.

Related:  Quick Start Guide to Freezing Food at Home

Last Harvest of the Season

Basil does need to be harvested completely before it is hit with cold temperatures.  It is a warm season herb that like temperatures above 50 degrees.  If nighttime temps, will be getting below 50, it is best to go ahead and harvest your basil completely.  To do so, simply cut the stem off at ground level, remove all leaves and toss the stem into the compost pile.   All your leaves can be brought inside for drying and freezing.

5 Ways To Freeze Fresh Basil

1. Flash Freeze (no blanching)

This is a very simple method to do.  Begin by washing your basil leaves, removing any stems or black places on the leaves.

  • Before freezing the basil needs to be completely dry.  You can lay them out in a single layer and pat it dry with paper towels.  It’s much faster though to use a salad spinner to remove any water that may be on the leaves.   This is the spinner I use and love it!  Just a couple 2 or 3 good pulls on the string and my basil is dry.  NICE!
  • After the leaves are dry, place them in a single layer on a flat pan or cookie sheet.  Place them into the freezer for about 24 hours.
  • They need to be frozen completely when you remove them from the freezer.  (NOTE – you will need to work very quickly; they will begin to thaw immediately and you don’t want this to happen)
  • Place frozen leaves in a single layer inside a freezer safe container. I use gallon size Ziploc bags and place parchment paper between layers – this prevent the leaves from freezing together.
  • Store flat in the freezer.

2. Blanched or Whole

Preserving basil leaves whole or blanched is an easy way to freeze basil as well.  It does require just a bit more prep work than flash freezing.  Of course, wash your basil leaves with cold water – no need to dry it.

  • Place basil into a colander that will fit into the pot you will use for boiling water.  (Basil will need to be removed from boiling water all at the same time – this is important)  I use this set of colanders – I like the varying sizes that stack well for storage.
  • Fill a large pot with water and place on stove top to boil.  (Remember, big enough for your colander to fit in)
  • In the meantime, fill a large bowl with water and ice for ice bath.
  • Dip basil leaves in colander into the boiling water for 3-5 seconds and quickly remove.
  • Remove basil from boiling water and immediately immerse into ice bath.  Using tongs (I have these) remove basil leaves from ice bath, dry well in a salad spinner and lay out in a single layer on a cookie sheet – I use this one.  Freeze for 24 hours or until firm.  
  • Remove leaves, one at a time and place into a freezer bag.  Place a layer of parchment paper between each layer to help keep from sticking together.
  • Remove as much air as possible.  Store flat in the freezer.

3.  Chopped – Frozen in Ice Olive Oil

I told you I would share with you my favorite way to freeze fresh basil and this is it!  In my opinion, a good fresh Virgin Olive Oil and Fresh Basil are just meant to be together.  Not to mention how pretty it actually is.

White plate of frozen fresh basil in oil cubes
Fresh Basil Frozen in Olive Oil

As with all recipes to freeze fresh basil, begin by washing leaves and removing any long stems that may be on it.  Remove any black or bad spots as well.

  • Place leaves in a chopper and chop until finely minced but not pureed.  I have a big food processor, but my favorite way to evenly chop basil for preserving is to use my Ninja Chopper.  It’s small and chops evenly without pureeing it.  It’s uniform in appearance and much faster than hand chopping.
  • Using a regular ice tray, spoon chopped basil into each section until it’s as full as you wish it to be.  I do about three-quarters, not completely full.
  • When you have all the sections are filled with chopped basil, pour each of them full with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • Place in freezer for 24-36 hours, until fully frozen
  • Pop basil out of ice tray and place in a labeled Ziploc bag.
Ice tray of chopped fresh basil
Fresh Chopped Basil in Tray to Freeze

4.  Chopped – Frozen in Liquid

  •  If you prefer not to use oil, you can substitute it with chicken or beef broth, bone broth, and even water.  Just follow the instructions for being Frozen in Olive Oil, only substitute oil with your liquid of choice.
  • Broth works really well for soups and stews
  • Water works well for everything.  Sauces, pasta dishes, and many other recipes
Frozen chopped basil in water ice cubes
Frozen Chopped Basil in Water Cubes

5. Pureed and Frozen

This can be done is 3 really simple steps.  Of course, wash basil and remove stems and bad spots

  • Using a food processor, for each cup of basil, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to it.  Process until pureed – about 2 minutes.
  • Pour puree into ice tray until all sections are filled
  • Place in freezer for 24-36 hours – until well frozen.  Once frozen, remove from tray and store in a labeled Ziploc bag.

If freezing basil isn’t your preference for preserving basil, you can always try these 4 different ways to dry basil.  AND – Drum role please… –  Jamie over at “An Oregon Cottage” can even tell you about 22 ways to preserve fresh basil.  I will admit, I was blown away when I took a look at the many different ways.

Fresh basil is probably my favorite herb to grow and eat as well.  I love it, my family loves it so its a win-win!  How about you, do you grow fresh basil in you garden?  If so, tell us how you preserve yours.  Happy gardening!!

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