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PHOTO: Lucy Crosbie/Flickr
Basil is among the most popular and widely used herbs in the world, and for good reason. Fresh basil brings a bright burst of floral anise to any dish and has an uncanny ability to make almost any pizza or pasta taste like a four-star meal. Basil is also a fairly reliable crop to grow, which makes it worth considering the many ways to sell it.
Today I’ll give you some ideas on marketing basil, but crops always sell better when the farmer knows how they are used. Basil is the base ingredient in pesto. It is most often used fresh, but it is not uncommon to see it used dry in Italian seasonings (see the “value-added products” section below). It is arguably used more in Italian cooking than anywhere else, though you also see it rolled into spring rolls, tossed in many Thai dishes or steeped in cream sauces. But it doesn’t have to be savory. Basil is also good with strawberries and blueberries. In summary, read up a bit and get to know your product. Here are some of the ways you can market it.
Sell It Fresh
Among the bigger challenges of selling fresh basil is keeping it looking fresh on a warm, breezy market day. I highly recommend finding a package that keeps basil out of the wind to prevent it from wilting—wilted basil is not a big seller in my experience. Basil leaves should not get wet, as they will blacken, so I don’t recommend keeping it in water. When you harvest it, get it in your cooler as fast as possible to increase longevity. Also keep a cooler nearby at market to refresh your display regularly. Choose a package—a clamshell or bag—that you find appealing and sell it that way. A box will always hold up to the elements better than a naked bunch, and things in boxes also tend to sell better.
Sell It With a Recipe
Some of the best success I’ve ever had selling basil was when we put it on the table in bulk with a pesto recipe attached and a big sign that read “Basil for Pesto.” The idea is to pick a recipe you like, gather some or all of the raw ingredients, then sell it all as a package. (Pesto is nice because it uses such a bulk amount of basil).
Maybe you have a great pizza or tomato sauce recipe—you could provide all of the tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil and do a recipe card and package for that, too. A basket with everything you need to make a margherita pizza from scratch could be an easy seller. You do not have to get too detailed, just make sure the recipe works and make it easy on your customer by having it all ready to put together.
Use It in Value-Added Products
Of course, you can simply make the pizza or pesto and sell it that way—ready to go or to pop in the oven.
You can also dry the basil and sell it simply like that, or you can mix it with some oregano and sell it as an Italian seasoning. Got a favorite basil-hinted pizza or pasta sauce? Preserve a bunch and sell it that way.
Note that to process food in any way is a form of food processing and is subject to local laws. Some regions are more lax than others, but learn and follow all of your local and state laws for home processing or using a commercial kitchen. That said, don’t let that little hurdle slow you down—home processing can be a great way to add value to excess or less-marketable produce.