Basil is a flavorful addition to fresh and cooked tomatoes, which is why it's so often included in Italian dishes. It also enhances soups, stews and all kinds of sauces, and supplies a lively wake-up call to slumbering vegetables. Grow your own basil in an herb garden so you can harvest it anytime you want. It's easy to grow and use in cooking, as long as you know how to crush it first.
Things You'll Need
- Paper towels
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Mortar and pestle
- Herb jar or container
Wash the basil stems and leaves thoroughly under cool water. Place them on paper towels.
Dry the basil by suspending it – like wet laundry – or heating it in the oven or the microwave. Heat the oven to between 150 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit; higher temperatures will drain the flavor from the basil. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the basil leaves on top. Dry the basil until the leaves are dry and brittle to the touch. Alternatively, lay the basil leaves between two pieces of paper towel in the microwave. Dry out the basil for one minute on high power. Let the basil cool for a few moments before assessing the condition of the leaves. If they are not brittle, reheat them for 15 seconds.
Pluck the basil leaves from the stems, working over a large bowl or dropping the leaves directly into the mortar. The leaves are the "heart" of basil, where all the flavor resides. Discard the stems.
Crush the basil leaves with the pestle, exerting some force as you do so. Move the pestle around the sides and the bottom of the mortar, pushing down as you go. The repetitive grinding action gently releases the natural oils in the basil and enhances the flavor.
Store crushed basil in an airtight jar or container in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Check the jar or container after a few days. If you see any condensation, remove the basil and repeat the drying process. Moisture can turn to mold in no time.
Tips & Warnings
- If you're patient and determined, you may crush the basil leaves between your fingers. But be careful, because basil can be sharp and can scrape your fingers.
- Do not use a food processor or chopper to crush basil. This may overheat the herb and affect the flavor.
- Pick Your Own.org: How to dry your own basil, mint and tarragon from fresh
- Cheap Vegetable Gardener: How to Make Dried Basil
- Herb Society: Basil: An Herb Society of America Guide
- CooksInfo.com: Dried Herbs
- Mother Earth Living: The Mortar and Pestle
- Culinate: Every kitchen needs a mortar and pestle
- The Washington Post: Mortar and Pestles for Different Jobs
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images