Dried basil should be illegal. It has no flavor. It has no texture. And it is a very sad substitute for fresh basil, which is so tasty and easy to grow! A single basil plant can yield 12 or more cups of leaves in a single season. So what’s the secret to getting the most out of your basil? Eat a lot of it! The more your harvest the more your plants will produce!
Pinch Right Above the Little Leaves
When harvesting basil, it’s best to pinch off a piece of the stem rather than just snipping off a leaf or two. Before you make your pinch, take a close look at your basil plant. Basil leaves grow in sets of two and the leaves are positioned exactly opposite from each other on the stem. If you examine the point where the leaves meet the stem, you should see two sets of tiny leaves growing out of the junction. When you’re harvesting, it’s important to make your pinch directly above a set of leaves. Why? By taking off the lead stem, you send a signal to the tiny leaves that it is time for them to grow into branches.
Keep Fresh Basil in Water
After you’ve harvested your basil, don’t stick in the fridge. The leaves quickly turn black and slimy when refrigerated and lose their signature spicy sweet flavor. To keep my basil fresh, I put it into a short, stout vase of water and keep it out of direct sunlight. The basil tends to droop at first, but after about 12 hours it perks right up. I change the water every other day and use the leaves as I need them. I like to keep the vase on my desk, because it makes my whole office smell like basil!
The basil will stay fresh in the jar for a week or more. In fact, if you leave the stems in water they will eventually root and you can replant them in a pot or out in the garden!