This past spring my husband and I decided to start a raised garden. We were hoping it would help our four year old have some responsibility and be excited about the veggies he grew in our garden. Ha! Talk about wishful thinking! He was excited all right until it came time to actually eat the vegetables. Let’s just say he was not a fan of our squash that’s for sure. Oh well… at least he gave it a try. Maybe once our carrots are ready for harvest he will have a change of heart? Fingers crossed! Vegetables is a whole different ball game, however, one thing he does eat is herbs from our garden. This one in particular is fresh basil.
As you can see in the picture above our basil took off and exploded this summer. Surprisingly, it has been blooming and surviving this extreme Texas heat. I have much pride in these excessive basil plants and how they brought so many honey bees to pollinate and still continue to do so. I just wish they would share their honey with us.
Since the basil was beginning to take over we deiced it was time to prune. Of course we did not want anything to go to waste so we decided to dry the basil.
I have never in my life tried to dry basil but after doing so I can now say I have an appreciation for the prices on the little spice bottles in the grocery stores, Even though now of days machines help with the process it took some time but was easy enough to do just a tad time consuming.
To start this process preheat your oven to 150 degrees and cut desired amount of basil. I will say the drying process obviously makes the basil leaves shrink so the more you cut the more seasoning you will yield.
After you have your desired amount be sure to carefully rinse the basil leaves. I set mine in the colander and ran cool water over them while gently tossing them by hand. Next, you want to grab a baking sheet or two and some parchment paper. I used two baking sheets to help dry as much as possible during the time allotted.
You want to carefully lay each leaf on the parchment paper in a strategic way. If you enjoy the game Tetris you will be a champ at maximizing the space on the baking sheet.
Notice that none of the leaves are overlapping during this step. Be mindful of the placement of leaves because overlapping will not lead to a successful drying out process. Once the leaves are placed accordingly, put the baking sheet(s) in the oven. You will need to bake the leaves until crunchy which can be anywhere from an hour to an hour and half. For me it was the latter end. You can always monitor the leaves and adjust your timing from there.
Now that the timer has dinged and your leaves look nice and crunchy, carefully pull out the pans and let them cool. Honestly, i was able to immediately begin the next step but be mindful of the warm pan(s). As soon as you pick up a leaf they begin to crack into a million little pieces.
Continue crumbling the leaves while pulling out and discarding the larger pieces of stems. This part was fun to me because who doesn’t like the feel or sound of crunching leaves? It made me feel like a kid during fall finding leaves to crunch while playing outside.
To store the freshly dried basil you can either recycle the original spice container you purchased from the store or use an old jar. I had a cute little glass mason jar that I thought would be perfect for my basil. Tip: an easy way to get the basil into the jar without a big mess is to use the parchment paper as a funnel. If this is too difficult a good old fashion funnel should be more stable. Trust me you do not want all of your hard work not making it into the jar!
While this did take longer than just picking up a jar of spices at your local store it was fun. I am proud to say I not only grew this from a seeds but was able to use it in a variety of ways both fresh and dried.
I cannot wait to share some of this with some of my friends and family. I found some cute small glass spice jars on Amazon that would be so fun to use as a little gift. What a fun and special way to share your hard work with others! I would even go as far as adding a little note saying “from my garden to your kitchen – enjoy!”. It is not only a nice personal touch that the recipient could have but a reminder that you shared not only a homegrown but homemade gift with them.
- Preheat oven to 150. Gather as much basil as desired.
- Gently wash basil in colander.
- Lay out parchment paper on baking sheet(s)
- Carefully place each leaf on paper. Do NOT overlap!
- Bake for 1-1.5 hours or until crunchy
- Crumble leaves and pull out large pieces of stems.
- Funnel into glass jar.
- Repeat steps 1-7 until you have reached the amount you want.