Basil Pickin

It’s hard to believe that those of us in the northern states need to start thinking about harvesting our Basil and other herbs because cold nights are headed our way fast.

Below is a quick how to, this applies for any and all herbs that can be frozen.  I’ve successfully frozen: Basil, Rosemary (on and off the stem), Sage, Thyme (on and off the stem)  and Oregano.  Freshly frozen herbs are a much better and cheaper alternative to store-bought dried herbs.  If you have not done it before you’ve got to try it!!!  Your spaghetti, soups, stocks and so many recipes will be so happy for the freshly frozen herbs.

Most herbs can handle the 50s and most the 40s too, but Basil is the first you should consider chopping down.  Basil will be the first to get limp and ugly black spots all over their leaves if they deem it to be too cold, which is well before a frost hits.  Rosemary on the other hand can be the last you harvest, it’s pretty hardy.  If you get a cold frost don’t write Rosemary out, you might be surprised.

For all the herbs start by collecting everything:

  • pair of gardening shears
  • bowl for those small herbs
  • towel/paper towel/salad spinner
  • freezer ziplock bag
  • pen
  • some time, you don’t want to chop the herb down if you don’t have the time to process it and get it in the freezer!!

Next, jump in

  • Use those shears and start chopping down the herbs and bring them in the house, or where ever you are going to clean them.  If you do bring herbs in the house be aware you may be brining in bugs and dirt
  • For Basil pinch of all the good-looking leaves, look for the leaves with the best deep coloring.  Skip the bug eaten or light-colored leaves.  My mom says to only pick the large leaves and my aunt says that you can pick the flower buds (that have yet to bloom).  I’m not sure either of them are right, ok, please don’t tell them I said that!!!  I say pick any leaf that looks good to you.  For Thyme I suggest going two routes.  Pick out the best looking sprigs and continue onto the next step and also take the leaves off of several springs and continue with these herbs on their own.  TIP: to remove Thyme and Rosemary leaves hold the stem upside down and pull your fingers along the stem, you’ll pull leaves off as you pull.  For Oregano  and Sage follow the Basil advice above and for Rosemary follow the advice for Thyme (i.e. create two batches, one with leaves still on and one with the leaves pulled off).
  • Rinse the leaves well.  For Basil and the springs of Rosemary and Thyme you can rinse in a standard colander.  However, for the Oregano and the Thyme and Rosemary that have been pulled from the stem be sure to use a mesh strainer.  You don’t want all your herbs to go down the drain!!
  • Get as much water off the herbs as you can.  For the Basil and springs a salad spinner works great.  For the small leaves (or if you don’t have a salad spinner) scatter them in a single layer on top of a paper towel or kitchen towel, place another paper towel or kitchen towel on top.  Roll the towel up and press a little, try not to crush your leaves too much.
  • Take a freezer ziplock and label the bag with the type of herb and the date harvested.
  • Add all the clean dried herbs you can into the bag, really pack them in.  Zip the bag closed 75% of the way.  Roll the bag to get all the air out and then finish zipping the bag
  • Put bag in freezer
  • When needed, pull your bag from the freezer, break off a piece, chop and add to your pot.  Of course if your recipe calls for a sprig of Thyme or Rosemary just pull those out and place right into your pot, they are already washed, so nice :).

Hope you’ll consider saving your herbs for winter use or if you don’t have any, consider growing them next year!!!


2 thoughts on “Basil Pickin

  1. My mom says to use them up before we can start growing them outside again, for us in MI that’s Memorial Day or about 9 months, less than a year. It is kind of obvious when the herbs are no longer good, they no longer have their deep color and they don’t have that good smell. I’m sure there are more herbs that can be frozen, but not all do well. You can always give a different herb a try. It sure is nice to be able to go to your freezer for your own, already cleaned herbs!!

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