Everything You Need To Know About Harvesting Basil!

how to harvest basil

Basil is one of the most popular and versatile herbs you can grow in your garden or indoors. It has a fresh and aromatic flavor that can enhance any dish, from salads and soups to pizzas and pastas. Basil is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants just like cilantro. It can benefit your health and well-being. But how do you harvest basil properly so that it keeps growing and producing more leaves?  

If these are some of the things you want to know, I have you covered! In this article, I will answer all these questions and more and give you everything you need to know about harvesting basil! So, keep on reading this blog till the end to learn more… 

How to Harvest Basil Leaves?

How to Harvest Basil Leaves

The first thing you need to know about harvesting basil is when to do it. The best time to harvest basil leaves is in the morning when the plant is still fresh and moist. Avoid harvesting basil in the afternoon or evening when the plant is dry and wilted. Also, avoid harvesting basil when it is raining or wet, as this can cause the leaves to rot or mold.

Steps to Harvest Basil Leaves

Steps to Harvest Basil Leaves

To harvest basil leaves, you will need a pair of scissors or a sharp knife and a basket or a bowl to collect the leaves. You can also use your fingers to pinch off the leaves, but be careful not to damage the stem or the plant. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Start from the top of the plant, and look for the stems with leaf clusters. These are called the terminal buds, and they are where the basil flowers will grow. You want to remove these buds, as they will make the plant stop producing new leaves and focus on flowering and seeding. This will reduce the flavor and quality of the basil leaves.
  • Cut or pinch off the stem just below the terminal bud, leaving about a quarter of an inch of stem above the next pair of leaves. This will encourage the plant to grow two new stems from the leaf nodes and produce more leaves. You can also cut or pinch off any other stems that are too long or leggy and leave about four to six pairs of leaves on each stem.
  • Repeat this process for all the stems that have terminal buds, and collect the leaves in your basket or bowl. You can also harvest some of the lower leaves but leave enough leaves on the plant to allow it to photosynthesize and grow. You should not harvest more than a third of the plant at a time, as this can stress the plant and reduce its growth and health.
  • After harvesting, rinse the leaves with water and pat them dry with a paper towel. You can use them fresh or store them for later use.

How to Harvest Basil So It Keeps Growing

How to Harvest Basil So It Keeps Growing

One of the benefits of harvesting basil is that it stimulates the plant to grow more leaves and branches and prevents it from flowering and seeding.

However, you need to harvest basil regularly and correctly, so that it keeps growing and producing more leaves.

Here are some tips to follow. For instance, you must harvest basil:

  • At least once every two weeks, or more often if you see the terminal buds forming. This will keep the plant bushy and compact and prevent it from becoming woody and bitter.
  • From different parts of the plant, and not always from the same spot. This will ensure that the plant grows evenly and does not become lopsided or uneven.
  • Before it flowers. This is because the flowers will reduce the flavor and quality of the leaves. If you see any flowers forming, remove them as soon as possible. You can also pinch off the flowers and use them as edible garnishes or decorations, as they have a mild and sweet flavor.
  • Before the frost, as the cold weather will kill the plant. You can either harvest the whole plant and store it for later use, or bring it indoors and keep it in a sunny and warm spot. You can also propagate the plant by taking cuttings and rooting them in water or soil and grow new plants for the next season.

How to Harvest Basil Without Killing The Plant?

How to Harvest Basil Without Killing the Plant

Harvesting basil is different from harvesting lettuce or other plants. The process is good for the plant and you, as you can enjoy the fresh and aromatic leaves in your dishes.

However, you need to be careful not to harvest too much or too often, as this can harm and kill the plant.

Here are some dos and don’ts of harvesting basil without killing it:

  • Do harvest basil from the top of the plant, not the bottom or the middle. This will allow the plant to grow stems and leaves from the lower nodes and maintain its shape and structure.
  • Don’t harvest basil from the main stem or cut it too close to the ground. This will damage the plant and prevent it from growing new stems and leaves. Leave at least four to six pairs of leaves on each stem and about an inch of stem above the ground.
  • Do harvest basil gently and carefully, and not roughly or forcefully. This will avoid injuring the plant and exposing it to diseases or pests. Use a sharp and clean tool, such as scissors or a knife, and make clean and smooth cuts. You can also use your fingers to pinch off the leaves but be gentle and precise.
  • Don’t harvest basil when it is stressed or unhealthy, such as when it is wilting, yellowing, or diseased. This will weaken the plant and make it more susceptible to further damage. Wait until the plant recovers and looks healthy and green before harvesting. You can also water and fertilize the plant to help it grow and thrive.
  • Do harvest basil when it is young and tender, not old and tough. This will ensure the leaves are fresh, flavorful, and not bitter or woody. Harvest basil when the leaves are about two to three inches long before they curl or turn brown.

How to Pick Basil Leaves?

How to Pick Basil Leaves

Picking basil leaves is another way to harvest and use the leaves in your dishes. You can pick basil leaves with your fingers or with a pair of tweezers, depending on your preference and convenience. Here are some tips on how to pick basil leaves. For instance, you can pick it:

  • From the top of the plant, not the bottom or the middle. This will allow the plant to grow stems and leaves from the lower nodes and maintain its shape and structure.
  • From the stems that have terminal buds, not from those that have none. This will prevent the plant from flowering and seeding and producing more leaves. You can also pick some of the lower leaves but leave enough leaves on the plant to allow it to photosynthesize and grow.
  • Gently and carefully, and not roughly or forcefully. This will avoid injuring the plant and exposing it to diseases or pests. Use your fingers to pinch off the leaves or a pair of tweezers to pluck them off. Be gentle and precise, and do not pull or tug on the leaves or the stems.
  • When they are young and tender and not when they are old and tough, this will ensure the leaves are fresh, flavorful, and not bitter or woody. Pick basil when the leaves are about two to three inches long before they curl or turn brown.

How to Store Basil Leaves?

How to Store Basil Leaves

Storing basil leaves is a great way to preserve and enjoy them for later use. You can store basil leaves in different ways, depending on how long you want to keep them and how you want to use them. Here are some of the best ways to store basil leaves:

Refrigerate Them

You can refrigerate basil leaves for up to a week, by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and placing them in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container. This will keep them moist and fresh, and prevent them from wilting or drying out. However, you should not wash them.

Freeze Them

You can freeze basil leaves for up to six months, by blanching them in boiling water for a few seconds, and then plunging them in ice water to stop the cooking process. This will preserve their color and flavor, and prevent them from browning or oxidizing. Then, pat them dry with a paper towel, and place them in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container. You can also chop them and mix them with some olive oil, and freeze them in ice cube trays. This will make it easier to use them in soups, sauces, or dressings.

Dry Them

You can dry basil leaves for up to a year, by hanging them upside down in a warm and dry place, such as a closet or a pantry. This will dehydrate them and concentrate their flavor, and make them last longer. However, you should avoid drying them in direct sunlight, as this can bleach them and reduce their quality. You can also dry them in an oven or a microwave, but be careful not to burn them or overcook them. Once they are dry, you can store them in a glass jar or a spice container, and crush them or grind them before using them.

Make Pesto

You can make pesto with basil leaves, by blending them with some garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. This will create a delicious and versatile sauce that you can use for pasta, sandwiches, salads, or dips. You can store pesto in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to six months. You can also customize pesto by adding other herbs, nuts, cheeses, or spices, according to your taste and preference.

How to Cut Basil?

How to Cut Basil

Cutting basil is a simple and easy way to harvest and use the leaves in your dishes. You can cut basil with scissors, a knife, or your fingers, depending on your preference and convenience.

Here are some tips on how to cut basil:

  • Wash and dry the basil leaves before cutting them to remove any dirt or insects. You can rinse them under running water or soak them in a water bowl with a few drops of vinegar. Then, pat them dry with a paper towel or spin them in a salad spinner.
  • Cut the basil leaves just before using them, to preserve their flavor and aroma. If you cut them too early, they will lose their freshness and wilt. You can also bruise or damage the leaves if you cut them too roughly or with a dull tool.
  • Cut the basil leaves according to the size and shape that you need for your recipe. You can either leave them whole or chop them finely or coarsely. You can also cut them into ribbons or strips, by stacking several leaves together, rolling them up, and slicing them thinly. This is called the chiffonade technique, and it creates a beautiful and elegant garnish.
  • Cut the basil leaves with a sharp and clean tool, such as scissors or a knife, and not with a blender or a food processor. This will avoid bruising or crushing the leaves and releasing their oils and juices. You can also use your fingers to tear or pinch off the leaves but be gentle and careful.

How to Use Basil Leaves?

How to Use Basil Leaves

Using basil leaves is a fun and easy way to add flavor and aroma to your dishes. You can use basil leaves in different ways, depending on your mood and occasion. Here are some of the best ways to use basil leaves:

Fresh

You can use fresh basil leaves to garnish and enhance your dishes, such as salads, soups, pizzas, and pastas. Also you can use fresh basil leaves to make salads, such as caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil, or Greek salad with cucumbers, feta cheese, and basil. You can also use fresh basil leaves to make drinks, such as lemonade, tea, or cocktails, with basil, lemon, sugar, and water.

Cooked

You can use cooked basil leaves to flavor and season your dishes, such as sauces, stews, curries, and casseroles. Also you can use cooked basil leaves to make dishes, such as tomato sauce with basil, garlic, and onion, or chicken with basil, cream, and mushrooms. You can also use cooked basil leaves to make breads, such as focaccia with basil, olive oil, and salt, or muffins with basil, cheese, and eggs.

Preserved

You can use preserved basil leaves to store and enjoy them for later use, such as freezing, drying, or making pesto. Also you can use preserved basil leaves to make dishes, such as pesto pasta with basil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese, or roasted vegetables with basil, olive oil, and salt. You can also use preserved basil leaves to make snacks, such as crackers with basil, cheese, and honey, or popcorn with basil, butter, and salt.

Wrapping It Up!

Basil is a wonderful herb that you can grow and harvest in your garden or indoors. It has a fresh and aromatic flavor that can enhance any dish, and a rich and nutritious profile that can benefit your health and well-being. By following the tips and tricks in this article, you can learn how to harvest basil properly, so that it keeps growing and producing more leaves, how to cut basil, pick basil leaves, and store them for later use, and how to use basil leaves in different and delicious ways.

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Ankita Tripathy loves to write about food and the Hallyu Wave in particular. During her free time, she enjoys looking at the sky or reading books while sipping a cup of hot coffee. Her favourite niches are food, music, lifestyle, travel, and Korean Pop music and drama.

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