Mother Earth Living

How to Preserve Basil: 5 Ways

By Staff

Patsy Bell Hobson is a garden writer and a travel writer. For her, it’s a great day when she can combine the two things she enjoys most: gardening and traveling. Visit her personal blogMy garden blog  at and read her travel writings at

Every day is a gamble in October. I begin checking the evening temperature to see if the basil will survive another night. The least hint of frost will kill a basil plant. Before we go into mourning over the loss of our favorite fresh herb, consider these five ways to stretch out your harvest.

Basil is best used fresh. If you can’t use all the basil before the first frost, consider these ways to preserve the harvest. When they predict the first frost, madly run out and bring in as much basil as you can carry.

Cross pollinated basil in the Rodale Gardens, Kutztown, Pennsyvannia

1. Fresh Basil: Cut off branches or stems of the basil plant and put them in a vase or jar. Pinch off leaves to use fresh. You might have fresh basil for weeks past the first frost. Basil stems easily root in water. I have a big bouquet of the different kinds of basil in my garden.

2. Basil Vinegar: Splurge on a good white wine vinegar. Fill a jar with basil leaves. Cover the basil with warmed vinegar. Gently shake or press the air bubbles out of the basil and vinegar. Cover and let the vinegar steep for a week. Taste the vinegar, if you would like a more pronounced basil flavor, let it steep for another week. Using a kitchen strainer colander, stain the basil vinegar. Remove and discard the basil leaves. Strain vinegar again through a paper coffee filter or cheese cloth. Label the bottle. It’s ok to add a little water if the vinegar is too strong for your taste.

3. Basil Cubes: Chop up the leaves into small pieces and place in a plastic ice cube tray. Cover leaves with water and freeze. When frozen, store the basil ice cubes in a heavy plastic freezer bag. Drop a frozen cube, directly into any simmering sauce or soup.

4. Basil Butter: Add 3 or 4 leaves of chopped basil to a softened stick of butter, then roll into a log wrap plastic wrap or waxed paper and freeze.

Fresh coarsely chopped basil for basil butter.
Add a slice of basil butter to vegetables or rice.

5. Pesto:The Herb Companion has printed many recipes for pesto. Basically, only three ingredients are needed to make pesto: basil, pine nuts and olive oil. I freeze pesto in a plastic ice cube tray. When frozen, pop the cubes out and put into a heavy duty freezer bag. Skip the cheese in the recipe if you are freezing the pesto. Add fresh grated cheese when you use the pesto.

Here is a good pesto recipe from the September 1996 Herb Companion article “A Basil Harvest,” Italian-Style Pesto

Here is another basil recipe from fellow blogger, the Lemon Verbena Lady: Basil Jelly Recipe.

Mixed variety of fresh basil rescued before the big chill. In about two
weeks the stems will root in tap water.
Photo by Lara Ferroni

I will miss fresh basil. If you see me moping around the garden centers, don’t go overboard. A simple “I’m sorry for you loss.” will do.

Later, when the basil recipe making frenzy subsides, we will talk about starting basil indoors from seed. I use an AeroGarden.

  • Published on Oct 7, 2009
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