Yeah, so I thought after all the graphic work I did for my post yesterday (yep – every single graphic in that post is one I designed), today I would do a post that was less intense from my end.
I’m going to share my secret to keeping fresh-cut basil alive and fresh longer.
I love basil. In fact, I really love basil mixed in with my spaghetti squash, along with a little butter. Super delicious. Great in gingerale, gin and tonic too, btw. Or infused in just a cold glass of water. And it happens to be a very strong natural anti-fungal and infection fighter too. And I have some serious mold allergies. So, I like to keep it around for many reasons. But doing so was a pain in the tush for a very long time, because it always went bad so very quickly in my house. Like some kind of basil curse. Until I discovered a secret. All on my own.
Before I go any further, let me explain an inherently important part of why it matters that I figured out how to keep my basil longer.
It all starts with the family green thumb. Which I didn’t inherit.
I am not a plant whisperer. I end up killing plants I try to take care of. I read up, get advice, try this or that and it does little to green up my very brown thumb.
I have no idea what plants want from me. <insert visual of me insanely screaming at a plant – I can’t take this anymore – what to you want!>
So usually we (the plants and I) resign ourselves to making a pact: I tell them – you’re welcome here as long as you like, but you gotta fend for yourself. Because you’re a frellin’ mystery to me. And I ain’t killing myself for you.
So that [insanity] is the setup you need to keep in mind as I explain this literal secret, as in hidden knowledge that nobody shared with me, that I STUMBLED upon. In my kitchen, doing my own thing (not online).
Before you suggest it, I tried the whole “living basil” plant too. I tried the ones at my regular HEB grocery store, my local Sprouts grocery store and I tried the ones at my local Whole Foods. I read up and I got advice from the produce department people. I was told put it in the fridge wrapped in paper towels, put it in a dark dry place wrapped in damp paper towels, stick it in a cup wrapped in a cold damp paper towel, let it sit out where it can get light, etc.. I tried all the ideas and advice. And in every case my basil started dying pretty much immediately.
After all this cut and “living” basil wasted, it didn’t take long for me to realize, hey – buy the whole flippin’ plant in a pot already. Even if you eventually kill it, it’ll survive at least a while and it will be cheaper than buying cut basil all the time. I felt a little guilty, but not too much. After all, plants are living too. And it must suck to get stuck with me sometimes.
OK, so after I have my potted basil plant, I learned from a friend who loves to garden that basil has to have the tops cut off before it flowers, or it’ll stop producing leaves. So you look for a place on the stem where two baby leaves are budding out and you snip the tops off just above that. Which I dutifully do.
And anything left over, I try to preserve just as unsuccessfully as before. Once it’s cut, it’s flat-out giving up on me. So I basically managed it by only snipping just exactly the amount I want for a recipe and nothing more.
Until one day, I realize that both my plants are about to go to flower and I need to cut a bunch of tops. And there were way too many tops than the recipe could possibly use up.
I didn’t have room in the fridge and I didn’t want to throw them out yet. So I grabbed a bowl and did something with them I used to do with the kids when they were little and would bring me the tops of flowers with no stems. I put a little shallow water in the bowl and set the tops in it and left it on the kitchen cabinet.
As it usually goes, I got busy and forgot about the basil sitting on the cabinet in a bowl of water.
Until I found it nearly a week later – with roots!
Let me tell you, I’ve tried putting full-blown stems of basil in water, and it did not work. They just rotted. But with just the tops in a little water sitting out and they will eventually root, leaving you with plenty of time to use up those beautiful leaves in your recipes.
So there you go. Secret to the basil universe. Go forth and use it well.