Author Topic: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?  (Read 23604 times)

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Offline canadave

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basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« on: January 08, 2008, 10:26:27 PM »
So I went to the local supermarket with my wife, looking for fresh basil leaves for a pizza.  Couldn't find them.  Asked a clerk if they had any, and he pointed us away from the place where all the other herbs were, to a non-refrigerated table in the vegetable aisle.  When I expressed some surprise that the basil wasn't refrigerated, he said that fresh basil leaves will "go bad" if they're refrigerated..."a common mistake," according to him.  "If they're refrigerated they start to develop black spots on them and such."

Okay, well, not being a basil expert, sure thing buddy, I'll bite.  I bought the package of basil leaves, and took them home.  On opening the package, it says: "Keep Refrigerated."

I suspect I know the answer to this already, but to make sure, I'll ask: who's right?  Refrigerate, or no?

--Dave

p.s. for the record, I followed the manufacturer's instructions ;)


Offline Bryan S

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2008, 11:03:24 PM »
Water spots on the leaves will turn them black. Fold a barely misted paper towel in a zip bag and place the basil in between the fold of the paper towel and remove as much air as possible and place in the fridge/crisper drawer. If you don't put them in the fridge you'll have dried basil in a day or two. Very, very little moisture on the paper towel.  ;)
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Offline sourdough girl

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2008, 12:43:20 AM »
Dave,
I do NOT refrigerate fresh basil...  when you grow the seeds into plants, the packet says that basil cannot tolerate temps below 50o F.  Therefore, why would you refrigerate it?  I keep it in a plastic container, wrapped in a paper towel in a cool part of the kitchen, on a table near the sliding glass door to the patio.  Temp is probably 62o F at this time of year.  If you put it in the fridge, it will turn black fairly quickly due to the cold temp.  I've kept it in the plastic container near the door for over a week... still perfectly good to use. 

There are some things that just CAN'T be refrigerated:  potates, onions, tomatoes (YES, tomatoes!!) and basil. 

The other herb that I buy off season is cilantro... which I bring home, take off the band holding it together, shake off the water and wrap in a DRY paper towel, put in a DRY produce bag and stick in the crisper drawer... it keeps for almost 2 weeks if I check it and change the wet paper towel for a dry one.

I am adding the disclaimer:  follow manufacturer's instructions.  But I'm telling you... 1) they are covering their corporate butts and 2) they don't care if it goes bad sooner because then they can sell you more!  It's an herb... it's not going to make you sick if you don't refrigerate it... in fact, it WILL spoil if you chill it!

~sd
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Offline November

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2008, 09:58:00 AM »
I prefer refrigerated tomatoes.  I don't know what the objection to refrigerating them is supposed to be.  Warm tomato slices on a BLT sandwich or warm diced tomato on a salad both sound unappetizing.  Like any other fruit, tomatoes should be allowed to "breath" while in the refrigerator to help eliminate ethylene buildup.

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2008, 01:57:13 PM »
November,
When you get your tomatoes home, you certainly can refrigerate them.  But, if you will please notice, when you buy them in the grocery store, they are warm.  I have worked for almost 15 years in the grocery industry and I can tell you that produce managers (at least good ones) do not refrigerate tomatoes.  When refrigerated, they become mealy and lose flavor.  As a former Deli manager, I purchased flats of tomatoes several times per week and, although they were transported in a refrigerated truck because it was not feasible for the produce company to make two separate deliveries, one refrigerated, one not, we were told to store the tomatoes at room temp.  The flats of tomatoes were the last thing loaded onto the truck and the first thing off to minimize the chilling.  Once the tomatoes were SLICED for sandwiches, they were refrigerated... and used within about 6 hours. 

Prior to my life in the grocery industry, I worked for a plant geneticist on a research farm in Oregon.  One of his major projects was developing several tomato cultivars (there is one on the market now called "Oregon Spring") and it is from him that I first learned (thirty years ago!) that tomatoes should not be refrigerated.

If you're buying crappy, mealy tomatoes in the grocery store right now, you probably can't do them much harm by sticking them in the refrigerator.  But during the summer, when a lot of us love to grow our own, why ruin the wonderful flavor, aroma and juiciness by sticking them in the fridge?

I'm not going to post a bunch of links here to prove my point, but all you have to do is Google "refrigerate tomatoes" and you will find PAGES of links telling you why you should not refrigerate them.

My best suggestion if you like them cold in salads and sandwiches:  store them at room temp, then an hour before you want to use one, toss it in a cold spot in the fridge to cool down.  Best of both worlds.

~sd
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Offline November

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2008, 02:17:08 PM »
Is it not conceivable that grocery stores don't refrigerate tomatoes because if they don't have to, they save money?  You mean links like the following:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/19/AR2005071900347.html

Where they, as I would if I really cared to spend the time, respond more fully to over-reactionary claims like "just CAN'T be refrigerated" and "NEVER, NEVER."  I have kept tomatoes in my refrigerator for up to a month without them appreciably degrading in flavor or texture.  You would have to have a pretty poor source for tomatoes if they can't stand up to a few days in the refrigerator.

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2008, 02:56:16 PM »
Nowhere does your article state that you SHOULD refrigerate tomatoes, only that you MAY.

"If a tomato is not fully ripened, refrigeration will stop the ripening process and prevent the development of its full flavor and color. That's the case with those offensive balls of tasteless plastic foisted upon us out-of-season by most supermarkets. Refrigerating them would certainly be adding injury to insult.
But red tomatoes -- fully ripened on the vine and fresh from the back yard or farm market -- are less subject to chilling injury and may therefore be kept in the refrigerator for a few days without any noticeable deterioration in flavor. Much longer than that, however, and their texture could become mealy."

A quote from your own link, my emphasis.  Even this article admits that chilling injury does exist and that tomatoes should not be refrigerated for very long, if at all. 

I have kept tomatoes in my refrigerator for up to a month without them appreciably degrading in flavor or texture.  You would have to have a pretty poor source for tomatoes if they can't stand up to a few days in the refrigerator.

Yikes!  A month?  They must not have been very good to start with if you couldn't tell the difference... see the quote above.
Yes, they can stand up to a few days, but that doesn't mean it's the best practice...
the gist of your article was:  "So if you like tomatoes ripe and cold, as I do, the tomato police won't arrest you for putting them in the fridge."   Again, you CAN... but that doesn't mean you SHOULD.

~SD
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Offline November

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2008, 03:04:11 PM »
Nowhere does your article state that you SHOULD refrigerate tomatoes, only that you MAY.

Talk about over-reaction.  I think you lost focus of the issue.  Nowhere did I say that one should refrigerate tomatoes.  This argument of yours seems all too familiar.  Just because I say it's the way I do things, doesn't imply that it's the only way to do them.  I was merely addressing what has now become a disparity in your statements:

There are some things that just CAN'T be refrigerated:  potates, onions, tomatoes (YES, tomatoes!!) and basil. 

When you get your tomatoes home, you certainly can refrigerate them.

I appreciate the fact you caught the intent of the article which is to say one can refrigerate tomatoes.  That's all I was pointing out.  Hopefully you can just accept that and not turn this into another battle of implications.

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2008, 03:54:00 PM »
Yes, November, I guess I forgot that I must watch each and every word I post so as not to arouse the semantics-beast in you!   :-D


I don't know what the objection to refrigerating them is supposed to be.

Nowhere did I say that one should refrigerate tomatoes.
Ah, yes, the battle of implications.  I remember it well...  but not fondly.

This argument of yours seems all too familiar. 
Likewise, I'm sure!

I apologize for using the word "CAN'T" because it certainly is physically possible to refrigerate tomatoes.
I amend my former statement:  "There are some things that really SHOULDN'T be refrigerated: potatoes, onions, tomatoes and basil."
Is the battle over?   :P   >:D    Or do you want to go a couple more quick rounds just for old-times' sake?   ;)

~sd
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Offline November

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2008, 04:04:50 PM »
Unfortunately for you, I was speaking pragmatically, and I apologize.


Offline mmarston

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2008, 04:07:07 PM »
SD, I'm with you.
I grow a number of different heirloom tomatoes and I'll give them away or freeze them before I'll put them in the fridge.
Freezing basil works pretty well also as long as you can keep the leaves very loose so they don't disintegrate.

Michael
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Offline sourdough girl

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2008, 01:56:07 PM »
In my meanderings around the internet, it seems the consensus is that fresh basil should be refrigerated, but there ARE a few renegades out there who agree with me:  <click here> to read from Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables where he says that "basil is a warm weather crop and is very sensitive to cold temperatures.  Do not refrigerate fresh basil; it will turn black very quickly."  He then gives directions for storing on the kitchen counter. 

So, I guess just like many other topics, there are differing opinions.  Maybe do your own test: refrigerate half the package as per your favorite expert... and room-temp store the other half as per your favorite renegade and see which basil fares better. 

In the fall when the temps drop into the 40s at night, I bring my pots of basil inside overnight, else it turns black and dies.  That's proof enough for me.   ;)

~sd
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Offline widespreadpizza

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2008, 02:51:22 PM »
I was going to chime in on this earlier.  the method described in this article works VERY well.  I try to buy packages of basil with long stems.  then you just fresh cut the ends and place into an inch or two of water and store at room temp.  My local hannaford sells basil in a plastic water filled jar that has a cap with a .5 inch or so hole in it,  so I have been re using that , but anything should work.  I have basil on the counter right now on its sixth day,  and it will still last another one or two from the looks of it. -marc
« Last Edit: January 12, 2008, 10:16:05 AM by widespreadpizza »

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2008, 10:24:57 PM »
fattpie,
Refrigerators actually dehydrate what's stored in them, that's the biggest reason you don't refrigerate bread, even in a plastic bag!  (Or have I just started another argument?  ;) )

If you keep it in a plastic container, wrapped loosely in a paper towel or two (or put the stems in a jar of water with a plastic bag over) they WON'T lose moisture!  My fresh basil has kept this way for over a week, whereas in the fridge, it turns black and slimey in a couple days.

If it can't tolerate below 50o in the garden (a well-known fact), how will it tolerate 38o in your refrigerator?
I'd like to plant some seeds right now, but it says to put them in a sunny window in the winter.... hmmmm.... a sunny window in Seattle in the winter?  I think that's an oxymoron!

~sd
« Last Edit: January 11, 2008, 10:33:00 PM by sourdough girl »
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Offline creampuff

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2008, 08:05:04 AM »
fattpie,
Refrigerators actually dehydrate what's stored in them, that's the biggest reason you don't refrigerate bread, even in a plastic bag!  (Or have I just started another argument?  ;) )

If you keep it in a plastic container, wrapped loosely in a paper towel or two (or put the stems in a jar of water with a plastic bag over) they WON'T lose moisture!  My fresh basil has kept this way for over a week, whereas in the fridge, it turns black and slimey in a couple days.

If it can't tolerate below 50o in the garden (a well-known fact), how will it tolerate 38o in your refrigerator?
I'd like to plant some seeds right now, but it says to put them in a sunny window in the winter.... hmmmm.... a sunny window in Seattle in the winter?  I think that's an oxymoron!

~sd

I can't find fresh Basil here, got celentro out the UKW at WM...so called store of the community!  So I freeze my home grown, take what I need out of the bag, IMO it's much better than dried.

If I grow in the winter, I place my starter plants in a clear plastic bag for extra warmth and humidity near the window that provides some sun.  They grow like a weed, no pun intended ;D

Offline csacks

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2008, 12:18:48 AM »
I'm from Colorado.  Tonight on the television I watched an add by Florida tomato growers.  The last thing that they popped up on the screen was...Do not refrigerate.   I have fewer mealy tomatoes since I stopped refrigerating them.  But, I have wondered if sometimes they were refrigerated before I purchased them. 

I'm going to pay better attention when a grow light is advertised on the discovery channel.  I think growing my own basil would be superior to buying it in those plastic bubbles and throwing it away a few days later.  Craig

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: basil leaves: to refrigerate, or not to refrigerate?
« Reply #16 on: March 05, 2008, 06:59:59 PM »
DH likes grape tomatoes in his lunch, so I bought these... and was happily surprised to see what was printed on the label.
Also, the produce dept where I shop does not refrigerate the plastic containers of basil.  But, I don't have to worry about it... I have seeds in pots, just beginning to sprout!   ;D
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