Basil is such a huge part of a summer garden. It pairs so well with those plump, freshly grown tomatoes and can be tossed into so many dishes for that Mediterranean flavor.

For those of us living in a temperate climate, basil is an annual plant that completes its life cycle during the heat of the summer months. Unless you are nursing a potted basil plant indoors during the winter months, basil becomes a dot on the horizon.

A great alternative to having to wait all winter is to get preserving your basil now. There are a few really simple ways to keep basil on hand for pasta and pizza parties all year.

Growing Your Own Basil for a Bumper Crop

Source: Toward Garden/YouTube

If you want to have a big harvest of basil to keep you going all winter, you need to have a plant or two in your garden. Don’t worry if you don’t have much space. Basil grows well in pots and can keep you in pesto for months to come.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is really easy to grow from seed, cutting, or simply buying a started plant from a nursery in spring. Plant your plants outside after the last frost of spring. Once your plants are big enough, harvesting regularly will keep them bushy, healthy, and abundant with leaves.

Now you have your basil plants, let’s look at ways to preserve them for off-season use.

Freezer Cubes

Source: Homesteading Family/YouTube

One of the simplest ways to preserve basil is to simply freeze it. Once you have harvested your basil and cleaned and dried it, you can add it to a food processor or blender with some olive oil, and whiz! The amount of olive oil you will use depends on how much basil you have, but you are looking for just enough to turn the leaves into a paste.

Transfer your basil paste to ice cube trays and freeze. Once they are frozen, you can pop the basil cubes into a freezer bag for future use.

You can also whiz up your basil leaves with just a splash of water instead of oil and freeze them in the same way as described above. However, you might notice that the basil leaves turn a brown color when defrosted. Though this might not look as vibrant as you are used to, the flavor will be the same.

Freezing Pesto

Easy green pesto in a glass jar

Source: Easy Pesto/One Green Planet

Instead of simply freezing basil and oil in icecube trays, you can go ahead and make up a batch of your favorite vegan pesto and do the same thing.

This recipe by Jesse Lane Lee for Easy Pesto calls for 4 cups of packed basil, 4 garlic cloves, some olive oil, water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and salt to taste. You can also add pine nuts, though walnuts work well as a more economical option. You can scale this recipe up if you have a whole pile of basil from your garden.

Once you have whizzed up your pesto, transfer it to ice cube trays and freeze just as above. You don’t need to thaw the pesto cubes out before using them. Just toss them into your pasta to melt over the stove.

Salt Preserving

Source: Melissa K. Norris – Modern Homesteading/YouTube

Salt preserving is an old-fashioned and simple way of preserving fresh herbs. All you need is some clean, sterilized, and DRY glass mason jars, lids, some basil, and some salt. The type of salt you use is up to you, but canning or kosher salt is a really good option. At the end of the process, you end up with preserved basil leaves that you can use in any recipe and a herbal-infused salt. Bonus!

One thing to note is that the salt-preserved basil leaves are salty! You can wash the excess salt off but account for the extra salt in your recipe before adding more seasoning.

So, for the method. You are going to layer basil leaves and salt in a jar. Start with a really good layer of salt in the bottom of the jar, then cover it with a couple of leaves. Sprinkle a little salt over the leaves, then add more salt. Keep going until the jar is full. Make sure that the last layer is a good thick layer of salt. This helps to prevent mold from setting in.

You can keep your basil salt in a cool, dry place or the fridge. Be sure to check for any spoilage and throw it out if in doubt.

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