Basil & rosemary -- shall we dry it or throw it away?

lauriedutch(5 / CO)September 25, 2005

We have two large basil plants and two large rosemary plants outdoors (don't plan to move and keep them indoors over winter, as discussed in another thread) and winter is fast approaching here in Colorado. Is there anything we can do with the basil leaves and rosemary such as dry them to use in cooking? If so, what's the best way to do this? I have plenty of room to hand plants upside down if necessary.

Does it matter if the basil has flowers? Thanks.


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teryaki(z5B NE OHIO)

The rosemary you can absolutely dry. The basil, you can dry, or you can blanch the leaves and freeze them in a plastic bag.

As for the flowers on the basil, taste a leaf now. It won't taste any better later, so make your decision based on that.

You really should think about keeping one of the rosemary plants alive, though... Unless you're gonna by a full-sized plant next year, you'll have a long wait before it gets big again.

Here is a link that might be useful: Drying herbs

    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 6:10PM
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In addition to drying, you can make basil pesto, basil vinegar and basil oil. Rosemary makes a fine pesto with walnuts as well. Rosemary also makes good vinegar.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 6:15AM
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I pick my basil, put it in a baggie and throw it in the freezer. Once it is frozen the leaves crush easily and you can add it to whatever you need without chopping. I do this with spinach too.
The rosemary I would just pick, put in a paper bag and store it in the fridge, in your crisper drawer. This is easier than hanging and drying, works for alot of herbs.
The basil won't stand any frost, mine are already done, but the rosemary might make it thru the winter if you mulch it and cover it with straw or leaves. I keep mine in a pot that sits on the patio all summer, but it will be coming inside soon.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 12:28PM
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Herbalynn(Oregon, 7-8)

It is important to note here, Basil is an annual, Rosemary is a perenial. So that is why you pull the Basil out and dry it upside down (or how ever you decide to preserve it).
But since the Rosemary may live over, depending on how harsh the winter is, cut back about 1/3 to 1/2 of the bush to dry, for later use, then mulch your plant or offer it some protection from the elements.
Enjoy! Lynn

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 6:20PM
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Amino_X(z7b AR)

LOL! I've been air-drying my Genovese Basil all summer not knowing any better (though I LOVE that idea of freezing it and crumbling it up! I will definately be trying that on the next harvest).

I've just been tying mine up with sewing thread, staggering the branches so that it gets good airflow and hanging it where it can get a draft. Where I'm hanging it in the kitchen is just across from the air-conditioner register so between that and the family walking back and forth stirring things up it gets constant airflow and dries completely in just 2-3 weeks.

Another perk, the drying bouquet looks enough like wolf-bane that any vampires peeking in my kitchen window at night choose not to take their chances hee hee

Best Wishes

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 12:58PM
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teryaki(z5B NE OHIO)

Rosemary dies off in zones colder than 7, unfortunately, so you've got to harvest or bring it in. I've kept mine under the deck table for the last two weeks so it can adjust to the light it'll have indoors for the winter. :(

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 4:15PM
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LaurelLily(9a Houston, TX)

I agree with the suggestion to make herbal oils/butters/etc. to use over the winter.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 9:55AM
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bomber(6 MA)

Here's an idea I came up with last year and it worked well. I am in zone 6.

I contacted a local spring water supplier. They had a bunch of the plastic 5 gallon bottles with cracks. I took away as many as I could carry.

With a rotozip saw, I cut the bottoms off all of them. Voila! Instant cloches!

I put one cloche over each of my more tender perennials - lavenders, rosemary, etc. I then include added protection by mulching with hay around the base, just in case we got no snow.

The plastic bottles are light and will topple over with a gust of wind. However, if you take old athletic socks - the long kind - fill them with some gravel, marbles or other kind of weight, cut slits in the top part so they fit over the jug neck, you can use two of them to balance each other and together they hold the bottle down and in place.

I was even able to winter-over parsley. I did it too late for the basil, however.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 4:54PM
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IMHO dried basil is basically tasteless. My suggestion would be to make pesto or a simple pureed mix of basil & olive oil. Both freeze beautifully!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 9:10PM
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lauriedutch(5 / CO)

Thanks everyone for the interesting replies!

PacNWest, I picked and froze the basil per your instructions. One thing I wasn't sure about (and would like to know for next year) is this: Does the basil need to be dry when you freeze it? I assume it wouldn't be good for it to have water on it (from washing and cleaning it after picking), as the water might form ice crystals. I washed the basil, then dried it on towels for a while, to the point where no more water was visible. Some of the leaves may have still been damp though.

We put the rosemary in a paper bag and placed it in the veggie drawer in the fridge.

Amino, thanks for posting the photo of how you hang your basil! Does it keep good flavor that way?


    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 10:45AM
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Amino_X(z7b AR)

Good? Definately!
Same? Not really, the flavor does change very slightly when it dries but not in a bad way

I have also found that the best way to grind it once it's dried is to put it in a bowl and then just crumble it with your fingers. For me it's faster than anything else I've used, and I can seperate out the "rubbery" ones (that dry but don't turn brittle). I use those where I want to steep the oils out but remove them before serving. :)

Best Wishes

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 9:11AM
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Nice to report a success story. We defied the odds in extending the life our rosemary plant. We live in zone 5 in Colorado and were successful, this past winter, in extending the life of our beautiful garden-planted Rosemary plant by thoroughly mulching it in the late fall and watering it through the winter months. We surface-watered and deep-watered it. On extreme hard freeze nights In early April, the longer branches were faded green and somewhat lifeless looking, but there was bright green growth at its base which was the part fully protected by the mulch. We did not cut any branches that appeared to be dead because we weren't sure they were.

Now (July 2006), it is fully green, once again, and growing nicely with our warm days and cool evenings. It is planted on the south side of our home in the vegetable garden so it gets year-round sun and maximum warmth. We look forward to caring for it through another winter.

Also, thanks for the tips on freezing it for use during the winter. We like to use it on chicken. When rubbed and placed in a roaster chicken along with some olive oil, lemon, basil and other spices, it makes for the best-tasting chicken you'll enjoy on a Sunday afternoon watching a football game.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 2:33PM
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trsinc(8 TX)

I also think the pesto idea is the best thing to do. It really preserves the fresh taste of the basil. I make several batches of pesto throughout the summer. I then pour it into ice cube trays, freeze, and them pop them out into zip lock bags. You can use the pesto as a last minute ingredient in hundreds of dishes. My favorite way is just in a bowl with olive oil and some good crusty bread to dunk!

Here is the recipe:

2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil

Whir in a food processor or blender until fairly smooth. That's it!!

A true pesto recipe has parmesan, garlic, and pine nuts, but I leave those out when I'm just wanting to freeze it.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 7:58PM
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This is just a tip, for those people who want to dry their herbs, but don't have the space to hang them.... you can put them on low heat for a few hours in your oven to dry them out, and you can even put them in the microwave for 10 minutes on high (on a peice of paper towel to absorb the moisture). These ways are quicker, and the herbs lose none of their flavour.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 6:56AM
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So if I dry or freeze rosemary, the needles will dry and crumble just like leaves right? Or will I have to crush them. I kind of want to know what to expect.

Also, I had a Basil but didn't like it very much so I replaced it with Green Shiso.
First, I must say this plant is simply delicious. Second, the place I bought it said it was a Perennial but most other sources site it as Annual. I'm keeping it indoors but it really doesn't seem to be dying at all. (Unlike my basil) And any advice on Shiso like you guys have had on the others would be awesome!


    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 12:58PM
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Could basil be dried in the sun, maybe sandwiched between two sheets of paper towels?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 5:40PM
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I freeze my basil leaves...they are wonderful to add to bottled or canned spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes. I use them mostly in my homemade pasta sauce.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 10:10AM
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You definately want to take cuttings of both types of plants
and I would not freeze them, but dry them.There are many good reasons for going this route and the best method of doing this is available if you contact me by email at: .

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 5:45PM
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When you freeze your basil does it turn dark?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 11:46AM
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lauriedutch(5 / CO)

-- When you freeze your basil does it turn dark? --

Yes, it turns a very dark green when frozen.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 2:13PM
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I dry rosemary a lot and I have a very large outdoor rosemary bush. I used to tie and hang and fuss a lot drying my herbs. Now I just put them in brown paper bags, fold down and clip, and leave them till they dry. Brown paper bags breathe so there's no need to punch holes in them. I used grocery store sized bags for my rosemary and just cut the branches short enough to fit in the bag and placed the bags near a sunny window under a ceiling fan. Last year, I dried five bags worth. Took a couple of weeks. Mushrooms also keep well in the fridge in a brown lunch bag.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 6:34PM
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What can I do to my rosemary plants before winter hits? I live in zone 6 [Illinois]Chicago.1-plant is in the ground and I have one in a large planter. I would love to keep the one planted in the ground in the ground without having to harvest it. Can someone please advise me, this is my first year planting rosemary successfully.
E-mail me please at

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 4:27PM
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