How To – Harvesting And Drying Basil

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    Its been a long growing season and if your lucky your Basil plants should be about a foot and a half tall and provided lots of great seasoning all summer long.

    If you have a three season room that gets lots of light then you could probably bring your plants indoors if you planted them in containers like we did but you risk the chance of bringing in insects that live in the soil. A good idea is to harvest your basil and then dry it.

    Drying herbs doesn’t require an expensive food dehydrator but you can use one if you happen to already own one. For this HowTo all you will need is a couple sheets of clean newspaper and a plastic container. I like to use a empty Parmesan Cheese container that I have washed well and let sit for a while to dry.

    If you want you can place your whole plant in front of you and just start picking off leaves. I like to prune back my basil in early fall to get what I want to harvest (about 75%) and allow the rest of the plant to grow as long as it can outside.

    Wash the fresh leaves well and allow them to dry on a paper towel until all the water is gone.

    Next you need to pull the leaves from the branches so you don’t end up with any stems and place them on a clean piece of newspaper.¬† Most printers use a soy based ink today and newspaper is said to be some of the cleanest paper since no one touches it until you do but you can use another non-coated stock if you want.

    Spread the leaves so they are not overlapping and place the sheet in a closet for about a week and forget about it.

    When you come back your basil will be dry and ready for crushing.

    Some people suggest that you place herbs in a gas oven with the pilot light on but most of todays ovens don’t have a pilot light that constantly burns gas. I strongly suggest that you don’t try drying your herbs by placing them in an oven on the lowest setting. You have a good chance of cooking out the oils and your herbs will taste like dust.

    Placing the herbs on a single sheet of paper lets them dry evenly. Never place them in a plastic bag unless you are freezing them. If moisture builds up because leaves are stacked too tightly you risk the chance of mold and that is another reason you need to wash your herbs well before drying them.

    Once you are done just place them in a container and use them as you would any other dry herb. They should last from 6 months to a year.. maybe more depending on your seasoning habits but hopefully you will  have enough to last you until next season.

    If your Basil has gone to seed you will have flowers that grow pods with small seeds. You can save the seeds but don’t expect a high percentage of them to grow plants next season. On the other hand one plant can produce hundreds of seeds and you will only need a few of them to grow to provide next season’s plants.

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