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How should fresh basil be stored? The packaging suggests that the optimal temperature is around 50°F, but I can't think of anywhere in an average kitchen at that temperature. A pantry is too warm, and a fridge is too cold. So which of the two is lesser of two evils? I recently had a whole pack get moldy after one use, and it was in the pantry. I think I'm going to start storing it in the fridge now and deal with whatever quality loss I get, unless there's a better solution.

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9 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Fresh packet herbs, if not taken care of, will only last a few days, at best. There are two things you can do. If you have a South facing window and the herb is in a pot, place it on a dish and give it lots and lots of direct sunlight and just enough water.

When you pick the leaves, take the outer growth and leave the smaller, inner leaves to come through. If you don't have a South facing aspect, you could purchase a full spectrum light to supplement the requirement.

If you don't have a pot I'd suggest drying or possibly freezing the leaves. Personally, I've never gad a great deal of luck with freezing.

To dry the herb, place it in a brown paper bag, and tie it off at the top. make several small holes in the bag, then hang it somewhere warm and airy.

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In my experience, fresh basil is froze the best using the following method:

Cut the leaves and put them shortly in cold water to refresh. Let the leaves dry Chop the basil up Mix the basil with olive oil Freeze basil mixed with oils as ice cubes :-)

Lasts for ages like this and the leaves don't get brown because of the oils protecting the basil.

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I bought basil at a farm market in Florida. The farmer said to wrap a wet paper towel around the stems and then put it in a brown paper bag and it would keep for days....up to a week. I did it and it works! Now I have fresh basil at my finger tips.

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This really works... Cut stems just before emmersing in a cool water bath to remove sand and to generally wash the leaves. This also refreshes the basil. Place in a tall glass with water sufficient for all stems to be immersed. Don't immerse leaves if possible. Keep on counter until most of the liquid on the leaves has evaporated. Place a clear plastic bag over the greens and either tuck under the glass or use a rubber band to secure to the glass. Place on the top shelf of the refrigerator, but not on the back wall since it is often too cold there. The leaves will become erect and fresh while they wait for your gentle hand to call them to your recipe. Replace water if it clouds. I wash in advance because I prefer to have clean, dry basil ready-to-go rather than cleaning and drying them when I am busy cooking. This method keeps basil serviceable for nearly a week. Try that on the counter!

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Oh, if you're not using your basil over a few days, it's a good idea to take it out of the refrigerator and take off its 'ventilator' bag for an hour or so. This will evaporate any condensation on the leaves that can accelerate spoilage. –  Tom May 16 '11 at 20:55
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From StillTasty. This site has done wonders with helping us extend the life of our fresh herbs

  • To store fresh basil: (1)Trim the ends and place basil in a glass containing about one inch of water; (2) Cover with a loose-fitting plastic bag and leave at room temperature; (3) Replace water when it gets cloudy.
  • Refrigeration of fresh basil is not recommended, as it can cause the leaves to turn black.
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Here's one method I've used successfully in the past:

Cut the stems slightly, remove the rubber band, then put it all into a vase (a regular glass is fine too). Fill it with a few inches of water, then cover it all with a plastic bag with several holes poked into it.

Keep it out of direct sunlight and maintain the water level, and it will actually start to grow. It will keep for weeks this way. There's a more detailed description of this technique (with pictures!) here.

Note: These days I tend to go through basil so quickly that I don't even worry about storage. I prefer to buy fresh herbs in small enough quantities so that I don't need to store them, but I realize that not everybody has this option.

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The best choice is obviously to grow it yourself and only cut of as much as you need at a time. :-) Other than that, storing it in the fridge works well for about a week. For storing it longer than that, you might want to try the freezing method bubu suggested, but i never had much luck with it.

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How much basil are we talking about, and for how long?

I don't tend to keep fresh leaves in the fridge, as it's the one thing that grows well in my garden, but you can take a length of paper towel, lay out the leaves, roll it up, then put it in the fridge -- it'll dry out rather then rot, so you won't have to pitch the whole if you forget about it.

If you have a massive batch of basil (that last harvest when they call for frost warnings on the news), I make up a large batch of pesto, minus the cheese, and freeze it in ice cube trays or muffin tins. (don't use plastic ice cube trays that you also use for water, or you'll have garlic ice ... I keep a set for freezing stock, pesto and such)

You can also blanch the basil in boiling water for a few of seconds, cool in ice water, drain, then place it into a pot with cold olive oil, and bring it up to just below a simmer and hold for um ... maybe 10? 15 minutes? Strain, bottle, and if strained well it'll keep in the fridge all winter.

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mince it, add large amount of it into a small amount of stock of choice (the stock that you use most commonly, or the most innocent stock that you can think of, e.g. chicken stock), throw it into the ice tray, freeze it, remove from ice tray into resealble bag, then serve PRN.

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