Frugal Day 13: Dried Flavour

Whether it’s fall, winter or spring and your herb plant is outside in the garden or in your kitchen window, drying it’s herbs for safe keeping is always a possibility. As it happened this summer I largely ignored my basil plant until my tomatoes were ripe.

photo 4Nothing’s better than fresh tomato salad laced with fresh basil, olive oil and lemon juice. It’s also a colourful change for the palate (I had yellow and red tomatoes.) Yum!

tomato basil saladToday’s project is preserving the rest of my basil plant for use during the winter. I’ve already harvested many of the leaves to be included in other projects and will leave a few to attempt transplanting the remainder of the plant indoors once colder weather hits.

For dried basil:

  • Go to the garden and cut top half or more off your basil plant
  • Keep the leaves on the stems and soak them in the sink for a few minutes. Gently swill them around with your hands to make sure the smallest of bugs won’t ends up in your dinner.
  • Let the basil drip off onto a tea towel for a few minutes. This is a good opportunity to remove leaves you don’t like the look of (were they bug eaten, sunburned etc).
  • photo 3Arrange basil into bunches. Remove a couple of leaves at the top of each bunch so there is place to tie the string for hanging.
  • Use any kind of string you have to tie your bunches together. Don’t be afraid to knot them tightly. The basil stems will shrink in drying and you don’t want any to escape.
  • photo 2-8Hang them out of the sun, away from moisture and heat. (I’ve always liked the idea of hanging herbs in the kitchen, but resort to my basement to avoid heat and moisture. It’s less pretty, but it works.)

photo 1-6Give your basil at least 4 weeks, but if you forget about it, that’s ok too! (You’re looking for basil that’s dry and crunchy and that breaks easily against your fingers. If in doubt, give it another week.)

Once dry, pull the leaves carefully from the stem. Package them whole into an air tight tub or ziplock bag.

After you try your own garden-grown dried basil, you’ll never go back to the store bought variety! Happy cooking with home grown basil!

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