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Jul 20, 2006 03:14 PM

What to do with Too Much Basil?

I want to make a whole bunch of pesto at the end of summer, so I planted (from seed) my favorite varietal; Genovese.

The "problem" is, because I have about 16 plants, just pinching off the flowers (must do this or plants begin to die) yields me a whole bunch of basil.

You can only add so much basil to salads, etc. Last night I tried placing the leaves in a Ziploc bag with olive oil, hoping to preserve them until I decide what to do with them.

Any ideas for using large quantities of basil, in a form that can be frozen (as my pesto is at summer's end)?

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  1. Even when you buy fresh basil there is too much of it. I pinch off all the leaves and put them in a sealed plastic container in the freezer. When I make a sauce from tomatoes I take a handful of frozen basil leaves and quickly crush them. They shatter into small pieces which I drop in my sauce.

    Granted, this is not long term storage but it works for getting five or six meals out of one purchase.

    I try to get basil not covered with sand. Rinsing the basil presents problems with freezing, although I have had to do it.

    I would appreciate any other tips on how to store basil.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Brian W

      Does your basil turn black in the freezer?
      (My coating the basil with olive oil was an attempt to keep it green.)

      1. re: Funwithfood

        No. It does turn black if I try keeping it in the refrigerator. I first tried the Tupperware solution about a year or so ago and I now keep basil in the freezer for a month or more and only use it about once a week or so. So far no black leaves, but I also discard any black leaves when I buy it fresh just to make sure.

        1. re: Brian W

          i've always had problems with basil and pesto turning black. Looking around the net, it seems many people swear by the following process...
          Blanch your basil leaves in boiling water for 10-15 seconds. Immediately transfer the leaves to an ice-water bath to cool quickly. Towel dry completely.
          Your pesto will now stay bright green.
          Aparently, the blanching leeches out the chemicals that cause basil to blacken.

          1. re: thorzdad

            Yes, my basil would turn black when I just left it open in the fridge or the freezer but what I do now is strip the leaves and put them in a sealed plastic container (Tupperware or equiv) and they last indefinitely in the freezer. They do tend to stain the container so use the same one all the time.

    2. Make pesto (leaving out the cheese) and freeze it. That'll concentrate a LOT of basil. I use those small round deli containers that hold about one cup. The pesto has a high enough fat content that you can cut it while frozen. 1/4 of a round is what I use for a 2-person serving of pasta.

      You can add parmesan when you cook it, but I've come to prefer pesto without it. Much as I adore parmesan, the basil flavor is brighter without the cheese.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

        Oh sorry, I see you said you make pesto at the end of summer. You could still make just a basil paste (basil, olive oil, a little salt, maybe garlic) and freeze that.

        1. re: Karen_Schaffer

          Why wait until the end of summer? If you have the basil now, make it now and freeze it now.

      2. I turn all leftover basil into pesto which I store in the freezer. It's not as intensely aromatic as freshly made pesto, but it's a way to have pesto most of the year. I crush the leaves with garlic and salt, then puree with olive oil. That's it. After it's been turned into a freezer container, I make sure it's covered in oil which helps to keep it from freezer burn. When I'm ready to use, I let it defrost, add it to pasta and top with grated cheese.

        I've also kept some leaves in oil in the freezer, but they seem to lose too much fragrance to be a good substitute for fresh basil. JMO of course.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cheryl_h

          I've found that leaving out the garlic before freezing makes for brighter flavor. Pesto base, or a good base to use for lots of stuff.

          Last year, I froze two quarts of pesto base, defrosted about a week before Christmas, then added the nuts, garlic, cheese, and a little extra oil to make the final product (about doubled in volume). Everybody got pesto this year. :)

        2. What happens to the basil plants at the end of summer? do they die? I'm growning my first plant in our square foot garden outside. It's been wonderful but I can't use all of it. I'd love to grow it year round.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mrsmegawatt

            It's an annual, though if you're religious about deadheading, you can keep it going for a while. That said, the stems get woody and the summer leaves drop in the fall only to be replaced by smaller, less flavourful ones.

            1. re: carswell

              I always bring in one plant in a pot and put it in a sunny window. It does get quite leggy and the stem gets woody, but it's awfully nice to have a few leaves available at any time during the winter. It generally gets through the winter and spring until I can have them in the garden again (I live in NY).

          2. Storing it, I can't add to what others have said. But in immediate uses, a change of pace is to use it in Thai food. Make a Thai style fried rice and toss in a handful of basil leaves right at the end. The residual heat will be enough to wilt them and the aroma will be wonderful. Also the same with stir fried spicy basil chicken, recipe link below.


            1 Reply
            1. re: Louise

              This is one of my favorite Thai dishes and so easy to make. Dont forget the fried egg