Basil…either you love it or you hate it. Maybe if you hate it it’s because you haven’t really had “good” basil. Is this what the basil you are used to looks like? There is nothing wrong with dried basil, but if you use it this is what it should look like. Dried herbs don’t have a really long shelf life. Depending on where you store them the will only last about a year. When they have lost their bright green color and no longer have a nice aroma you may as well toss them. Old herbs won’t hurt you but as my dad says “they taste like grass”.
So where should they be stored? Well, dark and cool is best but you really don’t need to keep them in the refrigerator; just not right over the stove. Keep them in a container that is tightly sealed.
Freshly dried herbs are great but if you have never had fresh herbs you are really missing out. Here in Wisconsin, Basil is an annual herb. Basil and other annual herbs should be treated like fresh flowers. Many annual herbs can be stored for a short time in the frig. If you put a piece of paper towel in the bag with them it will absorb moisture and keep them fresh longer. some people keep basil in the frig, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Basil will turn black if it gets too cold or will get dark spots. It’s still okay to eat if it’s not mushy; just not pretty. Instead harvest it fresh (ideal) for each use or if you purchased it cut then put it in a cup or vase, just like it is a cut flower. It really can be quite beautiful. If you see it all the time, you will be more likely to use it too.
So, you could grow your own; we’ll talk about that next time. However, you can buy it too. “It’s so expensive” you say. Well, yes, often times in the grocery store it is. Look for it at farmer’s markets and/or your local Asian market. If you find it for a good price get a lot and preserve it.
By the way, you can eat the flowers too. Try them, they are good; and also pretty on a salad.
Next click here to learn how to Grow Great Basil.
For the History of Basil click here.