Growing herbs at home is a fantastic way to add some flavor to the dishes you make.
One very easy herb to grow and harvest is basil. However, basil only grows well during a certain time of year. So what do you do if you want to use it longer?
Well, you freeze it.
Keep reading to find out how to easily freeze basil in just 5 easy steps.
What Is Basil?
Basil is an herb belonging to the mint family. This may be surprising to you, since basil certainly does taste like peppermint of spearmint.
However, basil is considered a mint, like so many other herbs we use regularly (including oregano, rosemary, thyme, and lemon balm), because of its structure and the way it grows.
Like other members of the mint family, basil has flowers whose petals are fused into an upper and lower lip, and leaves placed opposite one another. It also has a pleasant aroma, and thus is tasty on many dishes.
What Dishes Can You Use Basil In?
Basil is a great topper on tons of Italian dishes.
It tastes delicious on top of pasta and pizzas, like fettuccine alfredo or spaghetti marinara. And be sure to include basil when you make fresh bruschetta. Can you tell basil and tomato are a match made in heaven?
Basil is also one of the main ingredients in pesto sauce (that tasty green sauce made with olive oil and garlic).
In addition to Italian cuisine, basil is also popular in dishes originating in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Don’t forget to put some basil in your favorite soups and salads, as well. And if you want to add some fun flavor to your seafood dishes, basil tastes amazing on shrimp, halibut, and tilapia, among other tasty fish meals.
If you want to be able to complete all your dishes prepared from around the world, you will definitely want to grow some fresh basil in your herb garden.
How to Freeze Basil
It is not difficult to grow basil in your indoor herb garden and then freeze it to use year-round. It also will not take very long to complete this process.
1. Grow Fresh Basil
The first step to freezing basil is of course initially growing the basil plants.
It is easier to plant basil by transplanting an already-grown plant than to plant your own seeds.
To plant transplants, set plants in the ground about a foot apart at the same depth as they are in the pot.
Make sure you initially plant them when it is warm outside, and will stay warm consistently, because basil plants will not do well in cold temperatures. They will die off quickly.
Care for Your Plants
Basil is easy to care for, because it actually does not require much water. When you do water it though, be sure to do this early in the morning, to discourage fungal diseases from developing.
If you do decide to grow basil in your indoor herb garden, make sure it has its own pot, because it needs its own space to grow without the threat of disease or overcrowding.
Your basil should grow and flower within a month or so, making it ready for harvesting and enjoying.
2. Blanch the Basil
Once you have used up as much fresh basil as you are going to, you can get ready to freeze the rest.
Take the whole leaves, just as you would use the fresh ones. Remove them from the stem and blanch them in boiling water.
If you have never blanched leaves before, don’t worry: it’s not very complicated.
Wash and dry your leaves. Just use cold water to do this wash them, and when drying, be careful not to be too rough. You don’t want to tear or rip the leaves.
Now bring a pot of water to a boil. This is where you will blanch the leaves.
Don’t forget to fill a large bowl with ice and cold water (this will be important for Step 3).
Put your fresh whole basil leaves into a colander (because you’re going to need to remove them very quickly). Don’t just put them in the boiling water on by one. They need to be contained for easy removal.
Make sure the colander fits into the pot!
Now dip the colander full of basil leaves into the pot. You have to be quick, because the leaves should only be submerged in the boiling water for about 3 seconds. They will get damaged and lose their flavor if they are in the water for much longer.
3. Time for an Ice Bath
As soon as the leaves are blanched in the boiling water (remember, it’s just a few seconds), transfer them immediately to the bowl of ice and cold water.
Your leaves are now going to take an ice bath. This will stop the cooking process. You don’t want your leaves to be cooked, because then you will not be able to freeze them and use them later.
The leaves do not have to stay in the ice water bath for long, because as soon as they hit the water, they are no longer exposed to heat, and the cooking process should stop.
4. Dry the Basil Leaves
Once you have taken the basil leaves out of their ice water bath, be sure to dry them completely.
Again, you need to be careful not to rub them dry vigorously, or you could accidentally tear them. We’re not ready to use them in our food yet, so we shouldn’t be crumbling them.
You can pat them dry to the best of your ability, but there is an even better way to quickly dry the leaves (and it’s pretty fun, too).
Do you have a salad spinner? If not, it may be time to invest in one. They can be a little pricey for what they do, but they will last a long time, and will save you the trouble of drying your leaves yourself.
If you eat a lot of salad and fresh veggies, definitely look in to purchasing a salad spinner. In this case, it will help you dry your basil leaves. Just spin them around in the salad spinner, and voila! They’re all dry.
5. Freeze the Basil Leaves
Lay your cooled and dried leaves out on a cookie sheet or pan. Freeze the sheet until your leaves are firm. This should take between 12 and 24 hours.
Once the basil leaves are firm, transfer them immediately to a freezer bag. You have to do this very quickly, because the leaves will start to thaw right away once taken off the tray. They may wilt if left away from the cold for longer than a few seconds.
You may wonder if you need to use a freezer bag, or if any storage bag will work. Spend the extra money on the freezer bags, definitely.
Why Use Freezer Bags?
Freezer bags keep your food from getting freezer burnt in the harsh conditions of your freezer and subsequently and losing its flavor. You don’t want to go through the trouble of blanching and drying your leaves just for them to get messed up in the final stage.
Also, storing your basil leaves in a freezer bag ensures it will be easy to remove the individual leaves when you are ready to use them in your dishes.
The basil leaves will hold their flavor for quite a while, so feel free to take them out of the freezer any time you want to add them to a recipe.
Use That Basil
Now you know how to freeze basil, all the way from the beginning of the plant as a seed or transfer, up to its placement in your freezer for later use.
Following these steps is pretty easy, but you do want to make sure it’s worth your while.
Be certain to actually use the basil leaves you have set aside and frozen. It would be silly to go through the whole process of blanching, drying, and freezing them if you only end up throwing them away in the end.
Your dishes will taste better with a dash of basil, so any time you make something that could use this tasty herb, make sure you pull some leaves out of the freezer.