Last year's harvest was great, tied the stems together, hung upside down to dry, and had a wonderful winter of garden herbs for cooking and had lots for Christmas gifts as well.
Well, this year, I've now had this happen twice. I harvest the basil and bring it in, put it in a fresh water soak to rinse the dirt off, then get distracted and come back, sometimes only an hour later, and it has turned the leaves black. Not all of it turns, just some of the leaves, and on parts of the leaves, with the rest staying green.
I'm pretty new to herbs, so I'm not sure what's going on...and if I can go ahead and use the black parts, or should I discard them? The plants are extremely healthy, and the taste and aroma is wonderful. And if this is normal, how can I store the basil fresh for use a couple days later? I see it sold in grocery stores as fresh leaves and they look fine.
Also, some of the branches are just beginning to put on evidence of flowers...still green on the tips, but distinctive start to the flowering. When does the basil generally become bitter...when the flower is completely bloomed out, or when it begins to put on the blooms at first?
If it doesn't become bitter until the flowers actually bloom out, can the ends be used with the leaves for drying herbs for cooking? Or should I pinch that off and discard it?
Also, does it matter how large and old the leaves are, as long as it hasn't flowered? Or are the larger, older leaves bitter?
Angie, it could be the water you used to rinse is too cold. Basil is particularly sensitive to cold and can blacken quickly. Try using tepid water for rinsing. Also, do not store your basil in the fridge. Place the stems of basil in a glass, with only an inch or so of water. Keep the glass on your countertop. Change the water daily. Use tepid water again. That should give you a few days of freshness for your picked basil.
I don't rinse herbs, just shake them off gently and strip them directly into the dehydrator, if I am using one, or bunch and hang. IMO, rinsing adds water when you are wanting to take it away. Most aromatic herbs are not going to have many bugs on them anyway. Bugs don't seem to like most strong smells.
They recommend most herbs be picked before the flowers open. I try to get them when they are budding, because I like to see the buds in the jar. Some I pick with flowers on, if I don't get to them on time. I did that with oregano last year, and it tasted fine; I'm going to do the same this year. I also did that with some lemon balm this year, but they were not as aromatic as when they are budding. Maybe let some flower and see how they taste.
Have some drying right now, hanging by cotton thread and upside down.
I have lots and lots of sugar sand, so the plants get coated in the sand from wind and splashes from rains or watering, so not rinsing is not an option here. I guess I live on a beach...if you're from the Pleistocene Era! Crazy that we have so much sand an ZERO surface water here.
Sand, sand everywhere, here, too. High desert used to be a sea floor. But the herbs love the fact that it is sharply draining. :-) Rinsing is not an option here, either - unless, of course, one LIKES a fine spinkling of silicon with thier herbs!