John and I go through a lot of basil. I use it in all my tomato based dishes, from pizza to spaghetti, and all my sauces and salads. I also use it for pesto, and basil oil and vinegar. This is a great tip for having basil all year long for just a dollar or maybe two.
In the Spring, go to a farmers market or fresh food store and purchase one bundle of fresh basil. When you get it home, carefully pinch off all of the lower leaves and branches, leaving only one or two leaves and the center small leaves on each stem. Next, cut off the bottom 1/2 inch from each stem and put the stripped stems into a glass or jar of fresh water. Set them into a window where they will get some light, but not in direct sun. Over the next two or three weeks, replace or add water as needed. After about a two weeks, you will notice new little roots forming on each stem. At the end of three weeks, if there are any stems that have started turning a bit brown or where the tops have completely wilted, remove them and toss them out.
After you have all the stems processed, it’s time to work with the leaves you’ve pinched off. Wash and begin to process leaves. Reserve a few of the nicest leaves for using fresh over the next couple days. Store them like you would any other tender green.
Take any excess leaves and make pesto, basil oil, or basil vinegar using your favorite recipes. All of these freeze well.
If I’m going to freeze my recipes, I blanch the basil for about 3 seconds and then ice them immediately to kill the enzymes and maintain more info
the bright green color. I then make up my recipes and freeze them in ice cube trays. After they have frozen, I remove the cubes and put them into a resealable bag.
Keep your eyes on the stems you have rooting. While they are growing roots, the tops will often begin to set flowering leaves and tops. Just before they bloom, pinch the top out, leaving at least two leaves on each stem. These tops are perfect for spicing up a fresh salad, or sprinkled on top of a pizza. When each stem has a healthy root system, plant each stem into a pot (or directly into the garden). If you are growing in a pot… just one plant per pot. After another couple weeks, you’ll see healthy new branches and leaves growing on your new plants. Keep the flowering parts pinched off. As soon as they are ready, begin picking your fresh basil and using it in your recipes. I often pick entire branches from my plants, and repeat the entire process of picking off leaves, rooting the new stems, and planting them again.
During the winter months, my plants are really spindly because I don’t have any windows in my house that have enough sunshine, but… I have lots of frozen basil preparations in my freezer, so we have basil all year long.
If you use a lot of basil… like we do, you will save a bunch of money doing it this way.
Basil is so easy to grow this way… we went to a Thai restaurant a few weeks ago, and they used a sprig of Thai basil as a garnish on the entree… I now have a brand new Thai basil plant after putting their garnish into a glass of water.