If you grow an herb garden on your farm or homestead, chances are you grow and harvest basil. This pungent herb is a must-have for homemade pesto and many Italian dishes. For us at Road to Reliance, growing and harvesting basil is one of our favorite kitchen garden tasks.
Unlike other plants in the garden, knowing how to harvest basil means a continuous supply all through the warmer months. Once you grow basil in a sunny spot, you can harvest basil leaves whenever you need them.
Growing basil is pretty simple. It requires warmer temperatures, and well-drained and moist soil. Basil tolerates heat pretty well. if your area receives frost, it is wise to wait until after the last frost date if you are planting seeds or plants directly in the ground. You can also start growing basil indoors as well.
Plant basil seeds in full sun in most climates. Here in Florida, the summer heat can get to be too much, so we plant in partial sun. You will need to water deeply on a regular basis. It would also help to side dress your basil plants with a good dose of organic compost.
Basil plants grown in containers do well also. And as an added bonus, these container grown basil plants can be taken indoors during the colder months and placed under a grow light.
There are so many varieties of basil you can grow. Sweet Basil is usually used in pesto recipes. But there are many other varieties of basil plants for you to grow. Some varieties of basil are grown for their special flavors. These include; cinnamon basil, lemon basil, lime basil, and clove basil.
Other Common Basil Varieties Include:
- Purple basil
- Curly leaf basil
- Large leaf basil
- Frilly basil
- Holy basil
- Genovese basil
- African blue basil
Basil grows rigorously when grown outside so it needs to be pruned often. Indoor basil plants probably won’t need pruning as often.
Basically, when you see buds forming on your plant it is time to start pruning basil. Be warned, once the flowers form though, it means seeds will form, and the ability to keep harvesting basil will stop.
Pinch off any flower heads or blooms of the basil. This will stop seeds from forming and allow the plant to grow more leaves making for a bushier plant also. A bushier plant means more basil leaves!
Pruning basil weekly will keep your plant healthy and hearty.
How To Harvest Basil
The key to getting the most out of your basil plants is knowing how to harvest basil leaves without damaging the plant. The best time of day to pick basil leaves is in the morning to early afternoon. Make sure any dew has dried first.
If you only need a few, the best method is to harvest basil leaves is to simply pinch off a few leaves at the base of the leaf. This is the spot where the base of the leaf meets the stem. Always be sure to start at the top of the plant since these leaves grow back the quickest.
Try not to harvest from the bottom of the plant, doing so tends to make the plant look leggy. Harvesting from the top regularly will provide a continuous basil harvest.
But what about those times when you need a bit more basil?
Harvesting Basil Stems
It is so important to learn how to harvest basil without killing the plant.
To harvest basil stems, use herb trimming scissors to cut a few stems about 1/4-inch above the spot where the leaf meets the stem. This spot is called the node.
You can take a few basil cuttings this way, just be sure not to remove more than a third of the plants height. These cuttings can be placed in water to start new basil plants.
After you collect you healthy basil cuttings, be sure to pinch any buds that are forming to prevent the plant from going to seed until you are ready to harvest again.
How to Store and Dry Fresh Basil
Knowing how to store basil means preserving basil longer. If you wish to store fresh basil for a few days, simply place them in a cup of room temperature water. Your fresh basil should last about five days.
Do not place your basil in the fridge. It doesn’t care for the cold temperature and therefore, will turn brown.
Knowing how to dry basil is helpful for providing year-round availability. You can dry basil leaves in a dehydrator or on a tray in a cool place. The dried basil leaves can then be placed in a small spice jar in your prepper pantry for use all winter long.
Using Your Basil Harvest
Basil can be added to salads, soups, pesto, sandwiches, dressings and more. It is also good on pasta. For a new way to enjoy a cold drink, try adding basil to your homemade lemonade!