Nothing can beat the rich warm scent of fresh basil, especially when just crushed between thumb and forefinger. It’s one of those flavors that first gets people thinking about growing their own herbs. But sadly, for much of the year, we are without that lovely aroma – as basil, especially homegrown or organic basil, rarely persists far into the autumn. The solution for storing fresh basil for those with plenty of basil on the grow is to dry the herb. Drying basil would allow to enjoy it all over the year, to add dome spice into tomato based dishes. Add some organic sun dried tomatoes and enjoy.
But what is the best approach to take when drying basil? Most of us would want to ensure as much as possible of the aromatic compounds, essential oils and nutrients are preserved, when drying. That would lead most people into thinking of drying basil naturally, on a rack – but that does have its problems. Often the leaves become discolored, and lackluster, from oxidation from the sunlight. This can be reduce by drying the leaves between sheets of old newspaper, but the result is still somewhat lacking in that basil zest.
Another option to drying basil is to give it a go in the oven, at a low heat. This works best in a fan-assisted oven. You should remove all of the stems from the basil leaves, and the tear into little pieces. Place on a baking sheet, and put on a low heat. They should be ready in less than ten minutes, but you will need to keep checking, as if they brown, all is lost, in flavor terms.
But there is also another option, one that sounds a little like overkill, but which may, in fact, be the best way to dry basil. And that is to drying your basil in a microwave oven. Surprising as it sounds, blasting the basil leaves with microwave rays doesn’t result in their obliteration- far from it. What seems to happen is that it the water that absorbs most of the heat. This rapidly turns to steam, and evaporates. If you have the leaves on an absorbent surface, this steam does little damage to the leaves themselves.
Trying the microwave option does involve a little experimentation, as the timing is critical. You need to place the leaves, of a similar size, onto some paper towels. Then zap them in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time, testing in between. If the leaves are just starting to crumble, with a little bend, another 10 seconds should finish them off. The results are quite brilliant: the leaves are green, aromatic and easily crumbled. So this may be the best option, if you want your dried basil to be as flavorsome as possible.
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- the smell of fresh basil just