Basil is a popular herb for the home garden. While it tastes delicious when used fresh, you may need to store an over abundance of basil for later use. Here are some tips on how to dry basil for easy, long lasting storage.
Basil is best harvested right before the plants go to flower. This will provide the most flavor in each leaf because this is when the leaves contain the most oil. Keep an eye out for buds or new flowers during the growing season as basil plants can flower at different times throughout the year.
Harvest all basil leaves after the morning sun has dried away all the dew but before it gets too hot. Hot weather can wilt your freshly harvested leaves quickly.
Shake free any insects from the leaves or branches as you harvest. Discard any discolored or unhealthy looking leaves as well as any with insect damage.
Wash the leaves thoroughly in cold water. Dry off the excess water as best you can. Use two paper towels to soak up as much water as possible. If you have a salad spinner, you can spin out the excess moisture. Wet leaves can mold easily, so be thorough.
Basil needs to be dried quickly, because of its high moisture content. At this point, you have three methods for drying the basil leaves for storage:
This is the quickest, surest method because this is what food dehydrators are made to do. Spread out your leaves loosely on the dehydrator rack, only one layer thick so they have good aeration.
Set the oven to the lowest possible temperature. Scatter your basil leaves on a cookie tray with a layer of parchment paper under them. Do not let the leaves touch the metal. Place in the oven on the top rack. Turn off the oven after about 15 minutes but leave the basil in as it cools. Check the leaves and if they’re not quite dry, repeat this method.
Place the basil leaves on a cooling rack in front of a dehumidifier outlet. This is where the warm, dry air flows from the machine, quickly drying the basil.
Store dried basil leaves in airtight containers. Keep them out of the light. A dark cupboard or cabinet works great.
Use vacuum-sealed bags or zip lock bags, removing as much of the air as possible. Label each container. Dried basil stores well for about one year.
Throw away any and all basil with any signs of mold.
Basil can also be hang dried like many other herbs, but because of the high moisture content is more susceptible to mold with this method. Basil leaves also do not bundle as well as herbs that live on sprigs.
Basil often turns brown when drying. This should not affect the flavor or use in cooking.
When drying basil, no not cut or chop up the leaves or they will lose some of the essential oil that makes them taste so good.
Have tips on how to dry basil? Let us know in the comments section below.