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Why Do Basil Leaves Turn Black After Picking (Explained)

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Last updated on September 23rd, 2022 at 11:51 am

Basil is a widespread herb in most kitchens worldwide. Therefore, its flavor uses and benefits cannot be over-emphasized.

However, when Fresh basil is cut, it suffers different issues that may plague your once seemingly fresh basil leaves, one of which is your basil leaves turning black.

Why do Basil leaves turn black after picking? This change happens due to the storage conditions. Basil turns black or brown after picking due to oxidation. It means that when the leaves are exposed to air, the oxygen reacts with the compounds in the tissue of the leaves leading to discoloration in the leaves, turning them black or dark brown.

Also, washing basil leaves before they are stored can lead to the black coloration of the leaves.

This is because the leaves are exposed to oxygen from the water you use.  

Is Basil Still Good if it Turns black?

Changes in the coloration of basils are usually widespread, making them look unappetizing. However, you can avoid this if you follow certain precautions.

After acquiring fresh basil leaves, they tend to turn black due to oxidation, which happens more often than you can imagine. 

You may wonder if you can still consume them after turning black. After cutting or buying them fresh, it is easy to detect the green leaves turning black and note that this is due to oxidation and not other factors. 

If they turn black due to oxidation, they are still okay to be consumed after a short while.

However, it’s best not to consume them when they become moldy, slimy, or smelly after changing their color.

Instead, throw them away, get new ones, and learn better methods of preserving them. 

How Do You Keep Basil From Turning Black? 

Most fresh basil leaves are improperly stored hence the change in their coloration and other effects such as a rapid loss in their flavor, and with improper storing methods, the fresh basil tends to spoil quickly. 

However, the correct storage methods can easily prolong their shelf life and keep them in top-notch conditions for days, ultimately preventing that black coloration. 

Although fresh basil leaves are not the best for long storage, turning black and wilting very quickly, specific methods can be employed to keep your basil leaves fresh for a while before using them up. 

Although basil leaves do not do well in water, water is the best way to store them.

The only precaution when storing in water is preventing the leaves from actually touching the water. 

It would help if you placed the stems in an open bowl or, more preferably, a vase exposed to sunlight.

This method allows the basil leaves to remain fresh for a relatively long time. 

Keep the basil leaves at room temperature and periodically change the water in the vase. Also, strictly avoid the leaves touching the water as this is a sure way of turning them black. 

Another way to prevent your basil from turning black is to avoid refrigerators.

Storing fresh basil leaves in the refrigerator is a complete NO. The leaves become discolored and wilt over time. 

To store them in refrigerators, you must crush them in storage bags before placing them in the refrigerators and avoid moisture from touching them. 

You can also prevent your basil leaves from turning black by storing them in oil.

After harvesting or purchasing basil leaves, cut them into smaller pieces and place them in a dry bowl.

Fill in the bowl with oil, preferably olive oil, and freeze in the freezer. This method will also keep them fresh and prevent them from turning black.

What To Do With Fresh Basil Before It Goes Bad?

Knowing the shelf life of fresh basil, you may be wondering how to use up your fresh basil quickly before they go bad because you may have over-purchased them and figured too late that storing them fresh for a very long time may not be entirely possible.

There are many ways you can use up your fresh basil during cooking time, as the herb can serve different culinary occasions.

For instance, make basil pesto by mixing it with garlic, lemon, olive oil, and other ingredients you desire in your food processor. 

Basil pestos can easily be stored in the refrigerator for a long time, used to spice up your meals occasionally, and used as dressings for meals.

Basil pesto is the most common way of effectively storing your basil and putting them to great use. 

Basil pestos can be used on a lot of meals and have different uses such turning your fresh basils into a large jar of pestos is a great idea. 

This delicious condiment can be spread on bread, taken with eggs and meat, put into pasta, and used as dips and bread.

You can also turn them into pesto butter and use that on different meals. 


An excellent yield of basils from your garden or excess herb purchase can not be as bad as you think. 

Your basils remaining fresh is crucial, and with the right way of preserving them, you can easily accomplish this.

Your basil leaves turn black after plucking or washing due to oxidation and are perfectly safe to eat as long as they do not have slime or mold.

If your Basil leaves are turning Red, So please read this article.

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