You've finally gone for it. You splurged on a bunch of fresh basil at the grocery store instead of going with the dried stuff or skipping it altogether, ready to realize your dreams of the perfect caprese salad, the most flavorful pasta, or an elegantly crafted cocktail with an herb sprig. Feeling satisfied with your grown-up purchase, you bring it home only to realize that you're most likely not going to be able to use the whole bunch before it goes bad. Do you throw it in the fridge, keep it on the counter or are you just doomed to a life of dried basil forever?
Don't worry, we have the answers you've been waiting for. Here's everything you need to know to keep your basil fresh for as long as possible without having to resort to the dried stuff.
Fresh Basil Versus Dried Basil
There is absolutely no substitute for fresh basil. There, we said it. Fresh basil tastes like fresh air and sunshine, two things that dried basil, try as it might, can never offer. For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have an herb garden or cannot have indoor houseplants because we can, and unfortunately, will kill them, we must rely on the market for our fresh basil. Since good fresh basil is quite potent and strong, it’s a rarity that you’ll find a recipe requiring you use it all in one go, meaning you're likely to have a lot left over to use in other dishes. Basil doesn’t have the shelf life of woodier herbs, like rosemary and sage, meaning that once you’ve brought it home, it’s a race against the clock to use it all up.
Here's what you need to know to keep this fresh herb ready to eat.
How to Keep Basil Fresh Longer
Basil’s delicate nature means that the usual rules of food storage just don’t apply here. Throwing it in the fridge will cause it to wilt and brown in a matter of hours, so you'll want to avoid that route. The secret of keeping basil fresh isn't treating it like food at all, but like flowers. That's right — you'll want to store your basil exactly like you would a fresh bouquet.
Trim an inch or so off the bottom of the basil stems, then put them in a large glass jar partially filled with room temperature water. Then, cover the basil loosely with a thin plastic bag — the produce bags you find in the supermarket are perfect for this. Finally a use for all of the ones you've been saving underneath your kitchen sink!
Keep the basil on your counter, your kitchen table, or any other place where it won’t be subject to a draft or cold temperatures. Change the water every day to keep it fresh. Stored like this, basil will last up to a week — plenty of time for you to incorporate it into several recipes.