Storing basil on the line and in storage?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by Chase LaFerney, Jun 27, 2019.

  1. Chase LaFerney

    Chase LaFerney

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    restaurant owner, chef and certified Pizzaiolo
    Greetings!

    We are a Neapolitan pizzeria and go through tons of basil... we go through 1000 lbs of basil and we don't even make our own pesto (we buy bulk pesto then modify it to our liking). 95% of the basil we use goes onto pizza

    The way we hold basil for service on the pizza line is definitely not ideal and something that has bugged me for a while.... we pick leaves in bulk then hold in a bowl on the line at room temperature. The basil wilts and just generally does not look super appealing. Basil comes in on stems but not with roots in the standard 1# bags. We get delivery of basil 2-3x per week but are experimenting with growing our own hydroponic basil as well.

    Currently we hold the unpicked bags in the walk in without trimming the stems and placing in water... something I'm about to change.

    Is there a health code issue with storing basil with stems in water at room temperature in the restaurant for multiple days? Do we need to cover it overnight... any containers/tricks you recommend for storing it or creating back ups?

    Any tips for holding basil on the line for service? On our pizza side we have plenty of room to keep unpicked stalks in water but our salad line (for caprese, etc) has some space issues.

    Seems like a stupid simple line of questioning, but because of the volume of basil we have it's not as simple as having one or two plants sitting around to pick as needed.
     
  2. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    Retired Owner/Operator
    Hi and welcome to CT! :)

    When you say you are going through 1000 lbs of basil, how much of that becomes wastage because of the issues that you are having?

    Basil is fussy. There's no doubt about that. Basil lasts much longer at room temperature than it does in a cooler or fridge.

    The best way to keep basil fresh is to treat it the same way you would treat cut flowers. Trim the stems and place them in water and loosely cover with a clear plastic bag.

    Here's the funny thing about basil. If the basil comes on stalks and has well developed top leaves, you can clip the stalks just above the first node and place them in water under UV lamps or actual sunlight. The stalks will sprout roots and you can then transplant them into soil or hydroponics. When the parent plants regenerate their leaves, repeat the process. If you purchased a couple dozen healthy, mature pots of basil plants, you could turn them into a forest of basil in as little as 6 to 8 weeks.

    Of course, it all depends on whether or not this would be cost effective for you.

    As for any health code issues with storing basil in water at room temp in your restaurant, I would think that if they were stored a proper distance away from any area where food is prepped or stored, you would be fine.

    Good luck. :)
     
  3. Chase LaFerney

    Chase LaFerney

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    restaurant owner, chef and certified Pizzaiolo

    Yes, thank you! I actually have a significant basil garden going now at my home and I'm using clippings to clone the best plants. It's an amazingly resilient, but also sensitive, plant.

    I just want to make sure that holding in a restaurant environment in water, perhaps covered with bags, is ok health code wise, etc.

    The basil we get is very heavy on thick stalks and the yield... assuming no waste due to trashing bad basil... is about 50% leaves to stalk. I think we also probably trash about 15% of our basil due to storage issues or just receiving poor quallity basil from the supplier.. .and that figure might be low. Growing our own basil will result i better waste figures as well as a higher yield on picked leaves.

    Any clever uses of basil stems?
     
  4. PoorlyChef

    PoorlyChef

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    The only issue with storing basil in water at room temp is cross contamination, otherwise there are no issues. To store fresh basil on my hot line for service, I pick the leaves off of the stems and store them in a third pan with a damp cloth under and on top of the fresh leaves. As for storage of a large bag, clipping the ends of the stems and storing them stem first in water in a designated area off of the line helps keep them alive and fresh longer.
     
    hustong likes this.
  5. Gr8fulchef

    Gr8fulchef

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    Professional chef, restaurant owner/operator
    Our basil comes in 1 lb bag, inside a cardboard box. To store it in cold, we wrap the box with towels and plastic film to insulate it, otherwise it can turn black from the cold. On the line, we keep the bag in a re used transparent plastic box, the sort that spring mix comes in, with paper towels on top and bottom to insulate. It sits in the cold prep table above the inserts, cool enough to stay fresh but not so cold to burn.
    We receive shipments once a week and with careful handling we seldom run out. Good luck!