Best way to clean Basil and other herbs?
My local farmers market sells bunches of basil and they often have quite a bit of dirt on them. What is the best way to wash? I have tried rinsing and placing on a towel to dry as well as using a salad spinner. Both methods seem to leave the basil bruised, what am I doing wrong?
For basil, I rinse one stalk at a time under a light stream of running water. If necessary I gently rub or run my fingers across each leaf if there is a lot of soil. The word rub is not quite the right word, no abrasion just enough pressure to move soil off if the water hasn't done it. I shake off the water, then lay them out on a kitchen towel, roll up very loosely and gently press--very gently-- to remove the water. Leave them this way for some minutes to allow the towel to absorb the water. Bruising has not been a problem for me using this method. I have also dried them in a salad spinner if I'm using a lot for something like pesto, and I've not experienced bruised leaves from spinning them.
I rinse other herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, chives, etc. the same way but I don't worry about being so gentle with them (except maybe tarragon). Again I roll them in a kitchen towel, not tightly, press gently and leave them for some minutes, until I need to chop them or use them in a recipe.
Never clean herbs until you're ready to cook with them, I think the water used to rinse them shortens their life by enhancing or speeding up decay.
I can understand the bruising in the salad spinner, but how does the use of towels bruise them. We grow our own basil (Did I mention that my wife is of Italian heritage?), and my wife gently rinses the basil she harvests. Then she removes the leaves from the stems and places the wet leaves between layers of paper toweling allowing the leaves to dry before freezing single use packets to be used in winter and spring when fresh basil is not available in our garden. Her tomato 'gravy' (boy, do I hate that term, but I don't have Italian genes) requires the inclusion of basil. I call it 'sauce' and that irritates her after 51+ years of marriage.
Throw your herbs into the sink, plug the drain and fill with cold water. Swish the herbs around until the dirt has sunk to the bottom of the sink, then lift them out of the water and place them onto a towel to drain. After half an hour or so, most of the water will have dripped off and you can bag the herbs and refrigerate or do whatever you want with them.
I have a big garden and use this method for basil, arugula, lettuce and whatever other greens I happen to pick. Sturdy ones you can put in the salad spinner but some, like basil, bruise easily so I just let them drip dry.