For the second summer in a row, I’m missing out on the opportunity to run outside and cut fresh herbs for whatever I’m cooking. And sure, I manage to get by just fine with farmer’s market supplies, but I really miss that part of cooking where I don’t have to worry for a second about whether the herbs in my crisper drawer are still fresh enough to use or not.
And, while I have access to excellent Chinese and Vietnamese markets in my neighborhood, they do know their primary clientele, so they don’t sell Genovese basil. Or lemon basil. Or any variety of basil besides Thai, which I like, but not in everything.
But here’s the thing. I know all too well that basil doesn’t keep well in the refrigerator. But everyone I know says to cut the stems a bit, free the bunch from its twist tie or rubber band, and set it in some water in a glass. Everyone I know claims this works amazingly well in getting the basil to stay fresh and healthy and happy on their counter for a week or more.
In my experience? That hasn’t happened.
Here’s what happens to me: I bring the basil home, free it from its mortal coils (of rubber band), snip the ends, plop it in water, and then do whatever else I’m doing that day. The next morning, invariably, the basil’s already looking unhappy. Two days later, it’s in a full state of wilt. If I don’t use it by the third day, I throw it away.
This happens if I change the water every day or not. If I snip the ends or don’t. If I put the basil in a window or leave it in the kitchen where its natural light quotient is less-than-satisfactory.
I stumbled upon my friend Marc’s method recently, and I will admit to never trying the plastic-bag, faux-hydroponic approach. I’m willing to try it, and it makes sense to me from a biology standpoint, but I’ll bring a healthy dose of skepticism to the table. Maybe basil only likes me if I grow it myself?