Friday, September 10, 2010

My Love Affair With Basil

Growing a few herbs is one of my favorite past times and basil - well basil!  I just love basil!

I put out four large leaf plants this year and volunteer plants from last year’s seeds have sprung up here and there. I have been letting them grow wherever because we never seem to have enough basil. We probably use more basil than any other seasoning next to salt, pepper and garlic.

We are eating the stuff almost as fast as I can pick it - so trying to put some up for winter has been challenging. Drying basil or other herbs is really easy.

I use one of those old fashioned, accordion style clothes drying racks. I place the rack in my guest bedroom (which is seldom used for guest). I try to pick large branches of basil so I can just hook them over the rails.

It takes a week or so for everything to get crispy dry. Maybe longer. Check for crispness. Drying herbs will fade in bright sunlight, so the darker the drying space the better.

 Once the herbs are crispy dry - carefully remove them from the drying rack. If they are really crisp leaves will start to fall off when you move them. If you have a pet, as I do (yes - that is Murphy sneaking by in this photo) you might want to put a towel on the floor to catch the leaves and keep them sanitary.

Once you have them off the rack, just strip the leaves and store in air-tight containers. I do not crush the leaves. Keeping the leave intact as long as possible helps preserve the essential oils that give herbs so much flavor and fragrance. I just stuff them into containers and of course some of them get crushed in the process. When you are ready to use the herbs simply rub them between your fingers to crush.

By the end of summer I will have several gallons of dried basil- so no - it will not fit in those fancy little bottles that come with most spice racks.  

Canning jars work just fine and look pretty sitting on my kitchen counter.

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