An essential part of summertime meals, basil is at its most flavorful soon after picked.
If your basil is bunched with stems, it will keep in a vase or jar of water on the counter for several days. Otherwise, keep it dry in the fridge for several days. If your basil is at all wet when you put it in the fridge, its leaves will turn black.
Basil, like most soft herbs, is usually best added just before serving. Cooking basil tends to dull its bright flavor. Slice basil leaves thinly and use them to top sliced tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, pasta dishes, grain bowls, sauteed summer squash, green bean salads, and more. Of course, basil makes a wonderful pesto, and you needn’t be finicky about it: we mix other herbs (like parsley, dill, or mint) into our pesto along with the basil; or we omit the cheese; or we add anchovies or lemon zest or celery hearts or a chopped hard-boiled egg. In the summer, pesto goes well on top of just about anything.