Before we can talk about harvesting basil, we have to talk about pruning basil. How to harvest sweet basil and when to prune it. When to pick the aromatic leaves for best flavor. Storing and uses for the most popular herb.
When a basil plant is about six inches tall, you need to pinch the tip of each shoot off. This will make the plant branch out. Let the new shoots grow six inches and then pinch them back too. Keep doing this until you have a full bushy basil plant. Now let it grow as it pleases.
When you notice flower buds beginning to form, cut it back a few inches. There's no special way to do it. You can just shear it straight across the top. This is harvesting basil and pruning it at the same time.
If you want to keep the plant productive, keep harvesting in this fashion. The leaves taste best before the basil flowers.
You can continue harvesting your basil right up until frost if you don't intend to save seed.
If you want to save seed from your basil plants, let them bloom. Leave the blooms in place until they turn brown. Cut the flower stalks off and lay them on a white paper towel to dry.
If you shake the stalks over the paper towel,
little black dots will fall out. Those are basil seeds. Save them in a
labeled envelope. You can use them to start next year's crop.
Extend the Life of Fresh Cut Herbs!
There are several methods of storing basil:
Basil is most commonly used to flavor sauces. It has a special affinity for tomatoes so be generous when adding it to homemade pasta sauce. It is also the herb most often used to make pesto.
When harvesting basil that is flowering, don't toss the blossoms. Basil flowers are edible as well as beautiful. They make a nice addition to salads.
There are also medicinal uses for basil. It's a good digestive herb. A cup of basil tea will settle your stomach after meals.
Make it by steeping two or three leaves (bruise them first to help release the essential oils) in a cup of very hot water for a few minutes. Remove the leaves and add a teaspoon of your favorite sweetener if you like. Basil tea has a very pleasant taste.