If you've ever handled fresh basil, you know how delicate it is.
For years, every time I'd try to wash fresh basil, I'd end up throwing half of it away because it turns black so quickly.
And if you can get it washed without it turning black, forget trying to cut it - pretty much impossible...until now...
3 Easy Ways to STOP Fresh Basil from Turning Black
Why does basil turn black in the first place - it's because of oxidation. Because fresh basil is a live food, it has live enzymes in it, and when cut or torn or bruised, it turns brown and black just like an apple does after you cut into it. The enzymes have started digesting the food.
1. Wipe, Don't Wash: because basil is so delicate, running water and scrubbing are too much for it to handle. The washing process beats up the basil and makes it turn black, so try wiping it first. Wipe with a damp paper towel.
ALERT: Wipe the basil thoroughly because there are little green critters, perfectly camouflaged to match the basil, who love to snuggle underneath the basil leaves. Because washing is more difficult with basil, be sure to check underneath each leaf as you wipe.
Let's face it - cleaning basil by wiping each leaf one by one sounds like a pain in the ass - and it is...but it's worth it. Fresh basil on your fingertips smells so good it can change your mood. Now imagine fresh vibrant smelling basil with your next meal - it completely changes the complexion of the dining experience.
2. Store with Damp Paper Towels: my mom taught me this one. It's an old trick she picked up from her grandmother in Tehran, before the revolution. And my mom loves basil so much, that this simple trick probably saved her thousands in produce bills...especially buying organic.
Once your basil and washed and you've eaten all you can eat, it's time to store the rest, but we all know what happens. Typically, the next time we pull out the basil from the fridge, half of it will be black and we'll have to pick through it, throwing away half, if not more.
Now instead of storing it the old way, lay them out flat on damp paper towels and roll them up gently. Once rolled up, put them in a plastic zip lock back and slowly release as much air out of the bag as possible.
You will be amazed at the ratio of Green to Black basil you will have the next time you reach in the fridge and grab the leftover basil for your next Italian meal or even a fresh garnish to have with soup when inviting guests over for the Holidays. Basil may not be the first herb that comes to mind to compliment a Thanksgiving meal, but it I've found it can freshen up almost any meal.
3. Coat with Oil before cutting: this trick I learned from a Italian Chef-friend of mine. It's this trick that allows gourmet pizza shops to chop up fresh basil for your pizza without ruining the basil or serving you wilted basil on your pizza.
All you have to do is lightly coat the basil and knife with oil. This will help tremendously because it coats and protects from oxidizing which helps keep the basil fresh and green.
With most dishes, if requiring sliced or cut basil, will be fine with a little oil in them (in case your wondering how that will affect the flavor of the dish). Make sure you use the same kind of oil that matches the flavor profile of your dish - I'm sure if your a cook, chef, caterer, or foodie, you probably already knew that.
Bonus Trick: a bonus, slightly advanced trick we've heard that can help you cut basil or anything else with minimal surface damage is using a really good knife that is super sharp and using a revers-cutting motion - where your knife starts where it usually would end up and vice versa.
"RG" - LA Wine Expert
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