How to Rescue Wilted Basil (or Parsley)

No recipe today but just a simple trick. I tried it on a hunch and was surprised how well it worked!

Basil is notoriously difficult to keep because the leaves are not very robust and can’t withstand refrigerator temperatures — they turn black when kept below 12C/55F or so.

But outside of the fridge basil wilts easily, as shown in the picture above. If it is only just a bit limp but not completely dry or black, it can be rescued with a very simple trick!

Just submerge the wilted basil in cold (not too cold) clean water and wait. The water has to be clean, because the basil will take on any bad smells or tastes from the water.

It takes longer than you might think, about 12 hours or so, but then the firmness will return completely to all of the basil that had not wilted beyond the ‘point of no return’. As you probably know plants like basil mostly consist of water, and it is that water that is replenished by the soaking.

Out of the water it’s easier to see the difference. Not all of it is rescued, but most is as good as new!

Let it dry for a bit on paper towels, and it’s ready to be used again!

The same trick also works for parsley. Parsley is a bit more robust than basil and can be kept in the refrigerator. It’s best kept in an airtight plastic bag or other container with a few drops of water. If it wilts anyway and is not beyond the point of no return, just soak it for 12 hours or so in cold water and it will firm up again.

Of course the best way to keep herbs fresh is to leave them on the plant, but the quality of those small plants you can buy at the supermarket is usually quite crappy as the herbs have been forced to grown too fast so they don’t keep as long as you might expect and they don’t have much taste.

27 thoughts on “How to Rescue Wilted Basil (or Parsley)

  1. Reblogged this on Sybaritica and commented:
    Hi Folks … I am still on my blog ‘vacation’, but I spotted this post at Stefan’s Gourmet Blog (which I follow regularly) and thought it worth sharing…. You may want to take a closer look at the blog as it is well worth the visit!


  2. I have some basil in a pot on my windowsill and if I forget to water it, it just about falls over, but after a large drink it will right itself. The power of water!


  3. Well done! When I buy basil, I buy the stuff in a little pot and keep it well watered in a jar. I’m looking forward to when my garden produces enough herbs that I never have to buy or waste herbs again!


  4. “Of course the best way to keep herbs fresh is to leave them on the plant …” Good one, Stefan! I’ve seen this done, or something similar, with lettuce and roses. I never thought to try it with herbs, though. I will now. Thanks for the tip!


      1. I found a great tip for cilantro on another site. When I purchase it, I immediately stand it up in a glass of cold water, try to submerge only the stems..not the leaves. Then put a plastic bag over the whole thing and put in the refrigerator. It lasts so much longer and stays nice and fresh!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice one Stefan. The Wife keeps a basil plant in the kitchen window and all too often it (they) dies. I would love to be able to at least rescue a meal from it (them).


    1. Thanks Conor. (I can’t believe how popular this post is. Only took me 10 minutes and it already has more likes than anything else.)

      When you try to rescue a meal like that, make sure you do it before the ‘point of no return’. It can go very quickly sometimes.


  6. Hi, Stefan. Great tip. We do it periodically but most of the basil we use comes from the plants we grow. If we harvest too much we place it in a glass in the window. It will develop roots and you can replant it. Also, people don’t realize it but basil pesto freezes remarkably well. Don’t ask me why it naturally browns in the fridge but freezes nice and green as a pesto. There is some science in there somewhere. I just don’t know what it is.


    1. You are right that pesto freezes well — I do it all the time. Interesting point about the basil not turning brown when frozen as pesto, I had not realised that but I agree that it is remarkable. Perhaps the freezing just slows the browning process down a lot?


  7. Great tip! I live by myself so I always have a really tough time using herbs up in time and often end up eating the same meal for three days straight!


    1. Hi Pheebz, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave such a nice comment. Hope to see you around more often!
      You could of course also cook three different meals with the same herb 😉 Basil freezes well if you turn it into pesto first.


  8. Just a quick note. Basil actually does pretty well indoors as long as you do two things: water it DAILY and cut off any blossoms. As soon as a basil plant goes to seed, it dies. Just thought I’d share. As for cilantro, it IS fragile. Best strategy is to wrap the roots, if you get them, in paper (towels or newspaper, doesn’t matter) that’s been soaked and place in a jar with a tiny bit of water. Keep the paper soaked but it still won’t last more than 2 days, at most.


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