Tips for Harvesting Basil

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.

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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.

African Blue basil close view of purple and white 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.

Storing Basil

Buy sweet basil seeds for less than $1.

Buy Cheap Sweet Basil Seeds!

Keep fresh cut herbs longer by storing them in this.

Order an Herb Savor

Extend the Life of Fresh Cut Herbs!

Buy Siam Queen Thai basil seeds for less than $1.

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There are several methods of storing basil:

  • You can keep a handful of fresh stems in a glass of water. Change the water every couple of days and store the glass in the fridge. The basil should remain fresh for at least a week.

    Basil leaves bruise very easily so handle them gently.
  • The Herb Savor (above) will keep basil and other herbs fresh for up to 3 weeks.
  • Wrap the leaves loosely in plastic wrap and store in a "to go" container.
  • After harvesting basil for kitchen use, coat the leaves in olive oil before you cut them to keep them from turning black. Stack and roll them like a cigarette. Then slice thinly to get a bright green basil chiffonade. The oil seals the leaves so that air, which causes oxidation, can't get to them.
  • Basil can also be stored in the freezer or by drying it.

Uses For Basil

Purple basils make delicious herb vinegars and look wonderful in salads.

Basil, Purple Ruffles 1 Pkt. (100 seeds)

Pesto Production Tip:

Blanching the leaves for one minute before putting them into the food processor will keep the pesto from turning dark so quickly.

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.

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Take a Peek at My Other Herb Pages

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Find Out How Easy it is to Grow Basil

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Harvesting Rose Hips for Jellies and Syrups

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