Basil In Winter
Q. I grow basil in my garden, and it’s starting to look a little raggedy. How I can pick the best leaves off and freeze them or otherwise preserve them? Especially before the really cold weather comes?
A. This is a question I get repeatedly every year at this time. Even a light freeze can be doomsday for even a lush, healthy-looking stand of basil. Tragic situation. There is no good answer. Basil does not freeze well. When you attempt to use it you’ll find that its aroma and texture have been seriously compromised. The same is true (perhaps even more so) for drying the leaves.
About the only strategy for preserving that inimitable flavor and aroma is to make a big batch of demi-pesto sauce. Use fresh chopped garlic, butter, olive oil, and the basil. I call it demi-pesto because you must omit the pine nuts that are part of the classic recipe. (You can always get pine nuts in jars, fortunately, and add them when you make the dish.)
As for the rest of the pesto, put it in an airtight container and freeze it. It will be little harmed by the procedure, and the pesto will continue to provide a goodly supply of fresh basil flavor.
Otherwise, fresh basil is one of those things that we must enjoy while it’s growing, and long for when it isn’t. That makes the first basil of the season taste even better.