Kalyn's Kitchen

How to Preserve Fresh Basil on the Countertop

If you have a bunch of fresh basil and you’d like to keep it fresh a little longer, here’s how to preserve fresh basil on the countertop! No kidding!

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How to Preserve Fresh Basil

For years I’ve been freezing fresh basil, to use in soups, stews, and pasta sauce all winter long. Then a few years ago I started to hear about a way of preserving basil when you wanted to use it fresh, but had more than you needed right then. I don’t know where I first heard that stems of basil in a cup or jar of water on the countertop would stay good for days, but it may have been from Pam at Sidewalk Shoes.

Recently I cut several buckets of basil and froze some, used some to make basil pesto, and kept out a generous handful of basil stalks for a little experiment. So, just how long do you think a jar of basil will stay good on the kitchen counter if you keep adding water?

Here’s the basil jar the first day, and the basil is brightly green and fragrant.

Day 3, and there is no noticeable difference in the color or smell of the basil.

After three more days go by, some leaves are barely starting to curl, and the overall plant looks just the tiniest bit wilted.

Two more days, and the leaves are a little more curled, but still fragrant and perfectly usable.

Finally, 10 entire days and although one leaf has fallen off, the basil is really essentially as good as when I put it in the jar. I filled the water about every other day, and didn’t allow myself to cut any leaves off so I could compare the photos. Of course, I doubt you’d ever keep a jar of fresh basil this long without snipping off most of the leaves to add to whatever you’re cooking, but I thought it was great fun to see that it lasted this long. (Edit 9/15/2010 -It’s now nearly two weeks later, and the basil is mostly still perfectly fresh and usable! Most of the stems have roots, and the basil actually seems to be growing in the water!)

Do you have a garden where you’re growing basil? If so, I’d love to hear your own tricks for preserving it or what you like to make with your fresh basil.

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    44 Comments on “How to Preserve Fresh Basil on the Countertop”

  1. I had a vase of basil on the counter this summer and it started to shoot roots too. It had never happened for me before.

  2. Cheryl, you're welcome!

  3. great to know, thanks for posting!

  4. Susan, you, Elaine, and I must have been commenting at the same time. Never thought of doing that with parsley, but I like the idea a lot!

    Elaine, I love that tip of trimming the ends of purchased basil so it will soak up the water better! BTW, today is day 12, and the basil is still perfect!

  5. Glad people are finding this useful. Thanks to everyone who's giving examples of how they have used this method. If it was really hot in your house, I think putting it in the refrigerator would be a good idea, but I keep my fridge at about 40F, a little cold for basil.

  6. If my garden is low on basil and I need to buy a bunch, I always stick it in a little jar. Also, the vendor at the farmers market told me when I got home to resnip off the ends of the stems a little and they will soak up the water better.

  7. Love the day to day photos! I finally started creating kitchen counter basil bouquets last year, and it really is amazing how long they last.

    You can also store other fresh herbs this way, like parsley; I wrote about it on my kitchen garden blog here.

    So many sources tell you to store your herb bouquets in the fridge, but there's really no need. Basil loves the heat – and I know I'd just knock over the glass the next time I opened the fridge, LOL.

    I'm a huge pesto fan, but my favorite way to enjoy fresh basil these days is tossed with pasta along with cherry tomatoes and sundried tomato artichoke pesto. The simple recipe is here and the trick is to use LOTS and LOTS of basil. I've even been eating it for breakfast. : )

  8. I've never tried keeping it on the counter but putting it in a flat-bottomed jar with a little water and then into the 'fridge works really well. JD

  9. I've been experimenting so much with other herbs this year (thyme and tarragon mostly) that I have neglected to use my basil but a couple of times. I knew basil would stay good in water for a couple days, but ten?? Wow! Great experiment 🙂

  10. Wow, that is a brilliant tip Kalyn and I loved yoour experiment. Basil is my favourite herb and I work my way through a lot of it, so this is useful 🙂

  11. A great tip Kalyn. The refrigerator will shorten it's life considerably.

  12. for some reason my husband popped a large stalk of basil in a small bud vase and put it over the sink; and yes it was fantastic how long it lasted, and how convenient it was to pull a few leaves whenever I felt like it for cooking;

  13. Lydia, even though my herbs are just a short ways from the back door, I was surprised at how I loved having the basil on the counter. I think I'd love the convenience of just snipping off some basil to add to things and probably use a lot more basil this way.

    Silvia, I hadn't thought about that, thanks for sharing that info. So this method is probably not going to help much in the winter when you have to buy basil from the store. I am wondering though if you get the last basil of the year from the garden and manage to start it growing roots, how long you could get that to last in the fall. Hmm, another experiment.

    Heather, I love that idea. I wonder if I could root it plant mine inside in a month or so when it's starting to get cold here.

  14. It's been almost 2 weeks, my basil is rooting and has started to flower! I'm thinking of just planting it now. Great fun!

  15. It really stays fresh for up to ten days but only if it's fresly picked before putting it in the water, or at least there are just a couple of hours passed. On the 5-6th day it even strike roots.
    But often when I byu basil much more time has passed from the picking up time and it fades very quickly. In these cases making pesto is my solution – it stays fresh in the fridge for 5-6 days.

  16. What a great experiment! I'm lucky to have an herb garden right outside my kitchen door, so I can harvest just as much or as little as I need. But at the end of the season, you often have to harvest everything at once, before the first frost.

  17. Melissa, glad you like the idea. I know I'll be doing this all the time now that I've tried it.

    JMom, you're ahead of me on this one. Love the idea of the basil getting roots!

    Healthy and Homemade, I'm thinking this idea is even better in winter when basil is so expensive!

  18. What a great idea! Better than always freezing the leftovers and having to buy even more fresh basil.

  19. I started freezing basil because of you. I got the idea from one of your posts.
    During the summer months, I always have a jar of fresh basil in the kitchen. One time, I had a stem in there so long it started rooting! I swear 🙂

  20. Awesome information! I see those little bouquets of herbs all the time on cooking shows but I assumed they were just using them that day. That's awesome. I've ordered several herbs to start a kitchen garden. My basil and other yummies should be arriving in October. I'll remember this great tip!