- Basil Care After Season: Can You Keep Basil Through Winter
- Will Basil Die Over Winter?
- Basil Care After Season
- Cold Tolerance Of Basil: Does Basil Like Cold Weather
- Does Basil Like Cold Weather?
- Basil Cold Hardiness
- Basil and Cold Weather
- Grow Basil Indoors Without Dirt All Winter!
- Growing Basil Indoors During Winter
- Selecting the Right Lighting
- Growing Under Natural Light
- Growing Under Artificial Light
- Choosing the Right Potting
- Choosing the Right Soil
- Indoor Temperatures for Growing Basil
- Here are the Different Types of Basil:
- 1. Sweet Basil
- 2. Genovese Basil
- 3. Napoletano Basil
- 4. Italian Large Leaf Basil
- 5. Lettuce Leaf Basil
- 6. Dark Opal Basil
- 7. Purple Ruffles Basil
- 8. Lemon Basil
- 9. Lime Basil
- 10. Christmas Basil
- 11. Holy Basil
- 12. Greek Basil
- 13. Spicy Globe Basil
- 14. Summerlong Basil
- 15. Spicy Bush Basil
- 16. Cinnamon Basil
- 17. Sweet Thais Basil
- 18. Green Ruffles
- 19. Ararat
- 20. Cardinal Basil
- 21. African Blue Basil
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- We appreciate your helpul feedback!
- Growing basil
- Harvesting basil
- Saving basil seeds
- Using your basil harvest
Basil Care After Season: Can You Keep Basil Through Winter
Most herbs thrive in sunny Mediterranean-like conditions in well-draining soil. Certainly one of the most popular herbs, basil is a tender annual in most cases. With that thought in mind, at the end of season basil harvest, can you keep the basil through winter?
Will Basil Die Over Winter?
As previously mentioned, basil is an annual in most cases. Specifically, sweet basil, the popular variety of basil grown for use in the most sublime pesto sauces, is an annual. There are a couple of other varieties of basil that are hardier and tend towards a perennial life cycle.
Generally, the end of summer or first part of fall heralds the end of season basil harvest, but is there a way to extend basil’s life at the end of the season? You can try to keep basil through the winter. However, sweet basil is meant to live its life cycle within one year and thereafter go to seed. At the end of the season, though, you can try to keep it alive by moving potted basil indoors.
Unless you are moving and growing the herb in a greenhouse, the hot temperatures and direct sunlight that basil thrives in are not usually found in
the average person’s home, so be sure to provide as much light as possible; artificial lighting for 10-12 hours a day during the darker winter months. Even so, the plant may linger for a time, but it will succumb at some point. With this knowledge, it is best to be prepared to either purchase another plant or start your own from seed in the spring.
Basil Care After Season
Since basil’s sweet, fresh flavor is fleeting, it’s wise to have a game plan for basil care after season. That is, how are you going to utilize all that fresh basil while it’s at its peak and at the final harvest?
Basil is best used fresh. That said, it is also pungent when dried. Using a dehydrator or simply preserving the foliage by air drying in a warm, dry well ventilated room for a week or so is a great way to extend the life of this herb. Once the herb has dried, remove the leaves from the stems and store the leaves either whole or ground in an airtight container away from heat and bright light. Stored in this manner, dried basil will keep for one year.
A better method for storing and utilizing fresh basil leaves is by freezing the herb. Freezing basil allows you to keep the brilliant green color which complements food so beautifully, while drying the herb turns it to an unpleasant brown. Freezing your basil also results in a flavor more akin to fresh. You can freeze entire leaves in small batches in small plastic bags or chop them and place them in an ice cube tray with a bit of water. Or, mix the chopped basil with a bit of olive oil and then freeze in ice cube trays.
Once frozen, remove the cubes of basil and store in airtight containers in the freezer for future use. You can also make some fabulous pesto sauce and freeze it in batches. Frozen basil will last the same as dried, about one year.
However, if you decide to store your basil for the post harvest season, do it! I miss the fresh aroma and tender flavor of fresh picked basil during the winter. There really is nothing like it, and I pine for spring when I can cultivate it again.
Cold Tolerance Of Basil: Does Basil Like Cold Weather
Arguably one of the most popular herbs, basil is a tender annual herb native to the southern regions of Europe and Asia. Just as with most herbs, basil thrives in sunny locations that receive at least six to eight hours of light per day. Since this is critical when growing basil, you may wonder, “Does basil like cold weather?” Read on to learn more.
Does Basil Like Cold Weather?
Basil is an easy and popular herb to grow, especially common or sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum). This member of the mint family is grown for its sweetly scented leaves used either fresh or dried that compliment a variety of foods.
A member of the mint or Lamiaceae family, basil is usually grown as a tender annual. Generally, its growth cycle doesn’t include overwintering; rather it dies down and the hard seeds wait in the ground over winter and then germinate during the spring thaw. When temperatures dip, basil suffers cold damage almost immediately in the form of blackened leaves. Therefore, basil and cold weather do not gibe. If, however, you are the lucky owner of a greenhouse or live in a region where temps may dip but long hours of sun prevail, it is possible to try and over winter your basil baby indoors.
Basil Cold Hardiness
The cold tolerance of basil begins to suffer when the mercury drops into the 40’s (F.) but really affects the plant at 32 degrees F. (0 C.). The herb may not die, but basil cold damage will be in evidence. Keep in mind the cold tolerance of basil and wait until overnight lows are above 50 degrees F. (10 C.) before setting out transplants. If you set them out prior to temps in the 50’s (F.), you’ll either have to dig them back up or cover them to protect this tender herb from cold snaps.
It is also advisable to mulch 2-3 inches (5-7 cm.) of grass clippings, straw, compost or ground up leaves around the basil plants. This will aid in retaining moisture and retarding weeds, but also protect the plant a bit in the event of a sudden, short cold snap.
You can also cover the tops of the plants, down to the soil to help trap heat. If the cold snap really drops the mercury, a string of Christmas lights beneath the covered basil plants will help retain some heat under their covering. There may be some minor basil cold damage, but the plants will likely survive.
Basil and Cold Weather
Once the mercury falls into the 50’s and it seems that it is likely to continue to dip, make a plan for the basil plants. You may just choose to harvest as many leaves as possible and dry or freeze them. Or, if there is plenty of sunshine during daylight hours and temps are over 50 degrees F. (10 C.) but dip down at night, leave the basil outside during the day and then move it indoors at night. This is a temporary situation and will prolong the life of the plant, but it will eventually expire as temperatures continue to drop.
Lastly, you may want to try to get the basil to survive the winter so you will have fresh leaves year round. In this case, you will need to pot the basil and bring it inside. Remember, basil requires lots of light — six to eight hours of direct sun or ten to 12 hours under artificial light. Also, basil is still an annual and as such, it will eventually flower and die, even when brought indoors. That is its life cycle.
Additionally, if you do not have the light or space to try and over winter the herb, you can take tip cuttings from the basil and root them in small containers kept on the windowsill. You’ll have to keep an eye on the cuttings, as they tend to grow towards the light and may come in contact with a frosty window, which will result in blackened leaves.
Grow Basil Indoors Without Dirt All Winter!
I don’t know about you, but I cringe every time I see a $6 price tag on a bottle of organic (or not organic) dried herbs at the grocery store. Know why I cringe? Because I know how easy and frugal it is to grow your own herbs at home.
What’s this you say, you have no garden space? You don’t have time for a garden? Even if you don’t have a green thumb or time for a garden, you can have a mini-herb garden in about ten minutes, with very little upkeep. And, not only is it spending less, but it’s living better, because fresh home grown vegetables and herbs have more nutrients in them than store bought or even farmer’s markets varieties.
When grown at home, you let the plant mature on the vine and don’t pick it until you’re ready to use or eat it, equaling more nutrients, cheaper, and better health! See why I get so excited? I warn you, it can become contagious,this growing your own groceries thing. 🙂
One of the easiest herbs to start with and the most used in my kitchen, is basil. Fresh basil on top of homemade pizza, chopped up and thrown into scrambled eggs or an omelet, meatballs, soups, and of course spaghetti are just a few ways to use basil, oh, and pesto, how could I forget pesto?
I grow chives, mint, chocolate mint, lemon balm, oregano, and rosemary outside mixed among my flowers and in some large pots. They’re great perennial herbs (you don’t have to replant every year), but basil and thyme are some of my favorite warm weather annual herbs. If you live in a really mild climate with warm weather year round, you might be able to keep basil outdoors, but here, we frequently dip down into the teens during the winter, so it’s not an option.
Never fear, no matter how cold your climate is, you can have year round herbs via a windowsill herb garden. And, are you ready for this, you can grow basil without any dirt!
Have you ever been at the grocery store and seen those little packages of living basil? Both Safeway and Fred Meyers carries them.
Step 1: Buy one or two bunches of basil (usually about three plants are inside each package). Growing basil in water during the winter months is actually preferable, as you don’t have to worry about your soil molding.
Step 2: Choose a planter. You’ll need a planter of some kind and the most frugal option is to use something you already have at home. I have a thing for Mason jars, especially the vintage blue ones. Make sure your jar is washed and rinsed well. The quart size work best as they’re taller and offer more support for the basil. If you don’t have any antique Mason jars, you can get the limited edition replica’s here from our affiliate partner Amazon at 37% off (at time of posting). Ball Jar Heritage Collection Pint Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 6
But I don’t know how much longer these will be available as they were only made as a limited edition.
Step 3: Add water. Put about an inch of water (Note: we’re on our own well, but if you’re on city water or have chlorine in your water, you’ll need to use non-treated water) in the bottom of your jar. You don’t have to add liquid silica, but because silica is normally found in soil, the addition of it will help the cell structure of your plant. It’s available at most nurseries and plant stores. It comes very concentrated, so just a drop is all you’ll need in each jar. Here’s the brand I use from our affiliate partner Amazon Gold Silica 719440 GOLD SILICA 1 LITER (6/CS)
Step 4: Place your basil plants in the water. Find your warmest and sunniest window, usually this is a southern exposure side of the house. Because your plants have been inside a store with very little sunlight, don’t be alarmed if they leaves seem wilted and shriveled the first few days. Place the plant in the window and wait a week. All but one of mine perked up after some TLC in the sunlight.
Be sure you don’t place the basil against the glass or allow the leaves to touch it. The glass will be quite a bit cooler than the air and can kill the plant, especially during night time temps. If an exceptionally cold night is in the forecast, you should move your plants out of the window sill onto the counter where it’s warmer overnight.
Replace the water about every week or two.
Once your basil is doing well in it’s new home, you’ll want to harvest it. Now, harvesting basil isn’t hard, but here’s a few tips to ensure the continued growth of your herbs. Contrary to what you’d think, leave the large bottom leaves of basil on the bottom alone. These are what feed your plant.
Once you’ve got pairs of leaves at the top of your plant in a few tiers, pinch off leaves directly above a pair. This will cause two new shoots to grow, creating more leaves, and a bushier stronger plant.
If you’re using fresh herbs in a recipe that calls for dried herbs, you’ll need to use three times the amount of fresh herbs the recipe calls for. Have an over abundance of your herbs and want to dry them to give as gifts or to preserve for later? Here’s how to dry your own herbs at home.
Is learning how to grow your own food, cook from scratch wholesome food, and slowing down something you want for you and your family? Me, too!
Do you grow any of your own food at home? What are some of your favorite ways to use herbs?
Growing Basil Indoors During Winter
Just because it’s the winter season doesn’t mean that you have to stop growing your basil. Moving your favorite herb indoors and continuing its growth can be easy and even more convenient. Let’s take a look at a few tips for growing basil indoors.
Selecting the Right Lighting
One of the most important aspects of growing indoors is making sure that your herb has the proper lighting it needs to thrive. There are two options for this: natural lighting and artificial lighting.
Growing Under Natural Light
One of the best places to grow indoors is in your kitchen if you have access to natural light there. Growing in your cooking area allows you to conveniently snip your herbs and instantly use them in your meals. Your herb will need at least 4 hours of natural light daily and it’s best if you place them under windows that face south or southwest, though east- or west-facing windows also will do. North-facing windows are not bright enough to provide the necessary 4 hours of direct sunlight.
- Preserving Basil – Harvest Basil Now for Year Round Enjoyment
Growing Under Artificial Light
If you are unable to grow under natural light, you can always grow indoors using artificial light. Using this method will require you to set up a spot with fluorescent lights or specifically designed high intensity lights. This method will require that you provide the plants with at least ten hours of light exposure to remain healthy.
Remember these tips when growing under artificial light:
- Keep your fluorescent lights about 2-3 inches away from the tops of your plants, and keep higher output and compact fluorescent lamps about a foot above the tips of your herbs.
- If you’re using very high intensity lighting, keep them about two to four feet above the plants.
Choosing the Right Potting
When growing indoors you may want to take a few other things under consideration that you otherwise might not think about when growing outdoors. For one, you need to lessen the amount of drainage indoor to make sure you don’t ruin your tabletop or windowsill by letting your potted basil drain on it. Also, when you let your plants sit in water they will rot and be ruined. Instead, place your potted plant on top of a saucer, liner or drain pan to catch water and protect you surface.
Although clay pots help with drainage, they can also dry out quickly. This is especially important to consider if you live in a dry climate or are growing herbs indoors during winter when the heater is running. Instead, try a glazed or plastic container that won’t dry out as quickly as clay.
Choosing the Right Soil
Basil is a unique herb in that it prefers a nutrient-rich, slightly acidic soil that drains easily. It’s best to select a light potting mix that contains a high percentage of organic matter. You need to make sure that the soil holds moisture but is never soggy. When purchasing your soil, choose a mixture that is formulated for foliage plants opposed to one formulated for flower production. Flower production of basil plants should always be avoided.
Indoor Temperatures for Growing Basil
Most people grow basil indoor during the winter for obvious reasons, but you can really grow basil indoor anytime of the year. Basil prefers the same temperatures that most people do, around 65 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit. So if you’re comfortable, it’s likely that your basil is too.
Now, time to get your indoor project started With the right type of lighting, pottery, soil and temperature you’ll be certain that you can enjoy the flavors and health benefits of your favorite herb year around. Keep these tips in mind, and good luck with your next indoor basil project!
Wonders of Sweet Basil (Migraines, Insomnia, Colds & Flu)
Growing basil and other herbs at your own home is a great way to introduce gardening and a healthy lifestyle to your every day life.
My husband and I recently planted a large herb garden at our new homestead. I remember when we planted our herb garden at our old, smaller homestead.
We started the plants from seeds and just planted what we knew we would use.
Well, this time it was a little different. We moved later in the growing season so we had two choices. Wait until next year to start our own plants or purchase them from a nursery. We decided to go ahead and purchase them from a nursery so we could have our annual herbs for use this season, and our perennials in the ground already.
But was I shocked when I saw all the different varieties of Basil. I love Basil and use a lot of it, but we started with sweet Basil years ago, and I had never branched out from there.
Well, that changed this year. So I’d like to share the knowledge and let you in on the different varieties of Basil I’ve come across. That way, if you want, you can branch out in your herb garden too!
Here are the Different Types of Basil:
1. Sweet Basil
via Bentley Seed Co.
I’m going to start with what most people are the familiar with. Sweet Basil is your traditional style Basil that most of us use in our tomato sauces, pesto, in soups, and I use it a lot to make my own Italian seasonings.
So if you’d like to stick with what you know, then this variety of Basil is probably it. It grows well in really sunny and hot locations. So if you have full sun, plant it there.
2. Genovese Basil
This is a variety of sweet basil. It still has the classic look and taste of basil so naturally, it goes well with pesto and Italian cuisine.
But you’ll know the difference between sweet basil and Genovese because Genovese is flatter and pointier than traditional sweet basil. It also has a more aromatic flavor.
3. Napoletano Basil
via Root Simple
This is another variety of the sweet basil. It still remains true to the traditional basil flavor, though it is a tad spicier than the other varieties of sweet basil.
Because of its traditional (yet spicier) flavor, it makes a great pesto. So if you want something similar to sweet basil but with a little more kick, then you might like this variety.
4. Italian Large Leaf Basil
via High Mowing Organic Seeds
If you come across a type of basil that smells and tastes a little sweeter, then you may have come across this variety. It is said to have a sweeter smell and taste than Genovese basil.
So because of this, it can still be used to make everything else that the other varieties of sweet basil can. If you have a sweet tooth, then you’ll probably love this variety.
5. Lettuce Leaf Basil
via Rare Seeds
This is our final variety of sweet basil. It is one of the largest varieties of sweet basil and because of this, it makes it the most productive.
So this variety will be good for use in pesto or to use in oil. You could infuse oil with it, or you could use it in the oil that you dip bread in. Yummy! That is my favorite!
6. Dark Opal Basil
via Seed Bank
This basil is unique because of its dark coloring. You may have never considered adding herbs to your flower arrangements, but after reading this article, hopefully, your mind will change.
Because this variety of basil is a great one to use in a flower arrangement to add some color. You could also use it to add color to your garden as well.
7. Purple Ruffles Basil
This variety of basil is very similar to the dark opal basil. The main difference is that this variety is ruffled, but it carries the similar color.
So this variety is another good one to add to a flower arrangement or to use on your dishes as a garnish. It will definitely draw the eye to the plate with its beautiful rich color.
8. Lemon Basil
This basil variety is one that is more common. You can find it at most big box home improvement stores or nurseries. It looks like traditional basil but has a lemon flavor to it.
So because of this lemon flavor, it is great to include in both salads and fish recipes. Also, if you like lemon flavored iced tea, then you might want to add a leaf or two of lemon basil to get that lemon flavor naturally.
9. Lime Basil
Lime basil is similar to lemon basil as it looks like a traditional variety of basil. Yet, it too packs a different flavor. But instead of lemon, this variety of basil packs a lime flavor.
So the lime flavoring makes it great for both fish and chicken recipes. It also is great to use in a lime basil infused syrup. Then you could add it to your tea or margarita. But this basil variety is also very compact so it makes it a great choice for a small space.
10. Christmas Basil
This basil automatically sounds cheerful as most of us connect Christmas with fond memories and good times.
Which is exactly why I find the name appropriate because your mouth is going to be super excited when it tastes the fruity flavor of this basil variety. That flavor is what makes it such a good choice for an addition to a salad or a drink as well.
11. Holy Basil
This Basil actually has a unique history behind its name. This type of basil is one that is deeply respected within the Hindu religion. That is why it is referred to as Holy Basil, or also called Sacred Basil.
But you may also have more respect for this basil when you learn that it can be placed inside a tea and drank regularly to boost your immune system. Don’t you love plants that not only taste good but are good for you too?
12. Greek Basil
via Aunty Poppy’s Fresh Herbs
Some basil comes in smaller varieties. This is great news for people that don’t have a lot of space to grow things, or if they do container gardening.
Well, Greek basil would be a great addition to this environment because it only grows to be about 8 inches tall. This type of basil (though smaller) is still great for using in salads, meat dishes, or soups. It also makes a nice garnish or would work for ornamental purposes as well.
13. Spicy Globe Basil
This is another smaller variety of basil. It, too, works well for use in soups, salads, and pasta. But this variety of basil actually has a little spicier flavor to it.
So if you’d like a little spice in a smaller variety of basil that would also work well in your container garden, then you might like this variety.
14. Summerlong Basil
This variety of basil is a dwarf option. Because it is a dwarf it matures much earlier than other basil and is slower to bolt than other basil as well. It should produce within 30-60 days of planting.
But this variety is also great for container gardening as well. Especially since it grows into a small bush of basil.
15. Spicy Bush Basil
This variety of basil is another smaller variety that grows into what looks like a little basil bush.
So because of this, it is a great option to grow in a container. But don’t let the size of the plant fool you. It has plenty of flavors and would do well in sauces or soups.
16. Cinnamon Basil
This basil variety is one that is different than sweet basil but still familiar with a lot of people. A lot of the big box nurseries and home improvement stores carry this variety of basil.
But if you aren’t familiar with this variety, it has a spicy flavor and a sweet scent. It is a versatile variety as it is good for flower arrangements, garnishes, or to be paired with fruit dishes as well.
17. Sweet Thais Basil
via Rare Seeds
This variety of basil is one that is less common. It is an Asian variety that packs a very distinct flavor that you probably won’t forget (in a good way.)
But it is a spicier option to the basil varieties. So if you like something different and a little spicier, then you might want to try this variety.
18. Green Ruffles
I love the name of this basil. It just sounds pretty. I can’t help but think of a little basil plant filled with green ruffled leaves.
So if you can ever get past the imagery in your head with this one, then you’ll also be glad to know that this type of basil has a milder flavor which makes it a great choice for pasta, but its ruffled leaves also make it a beautiful addition to a salad as well.
This basil makes me laugh because I live very close to a place that is called the same name, but I digress. This type of basil is a great option to cook with. It is also a great option using for décor or to be placed in a flower arrangement.
But it also has a distinctly sweet flavor with a hint of licorice. If all of this sounds good to you, then you might want to give this variety of basil a try.
20. Cardinal Basil
via Genesis Seeds Ltd.
Cardinal Basil is one that is easily spotted. You will recognize it because it produces beautiful red blooms.
But don’t think that this variety is only good for ornamental use. It is also great for use in vinegar and oils because it has a spicier flavor.
21. African Blue Basil
via Edible Plants Project
This variety of basil is one that stands out for many reasons. First, it is one of the tallest varieties of basil because it grows up to 4 feet tall!
But this variety is also a perennial which is not the case with most other varieties of basil. As long as it doesn’t freeze, it will come back year after year. This variety of basil is great in flower arrangements because of its beauty but also works well in the kitchen too. It is great for rice dishes, meat dishes, and vegetable dishes too.
Well, you now know of 21 different varieties of basil. That is a far cry from a basic sweet basil, isn’t it?
But now you can flavor your food differently, add different items to your homemade flower arrangements, or add a little variety to your garden too.
Now, I want to hear from you. What varieties of basil do you grow? Which is your favorite? What is your favorite type of basil to cook with? What do you use basil for?
Please feel free to share with us! We’d love to share in the knowledge. Just leave us your comments in the space provided below.
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Growing basil, how to pick basil leaves, how to use basil. It’s all right here, folks. Years ago an old farmer told my young boys that when they started dating, a big bunch of sweet basil in the car would win a girl’s heart. Now, I don’t know about that, but growing and harvesting basil is one of my favorite summer garden activities. The fragrance definitely makes me happy!
Sweet basil is a culinary herb used frequently in Italian cooking and is the base for our favorite pesto. It’s not the only type of basil, though. There are dozens of different cultivars to choose from. Some are purple, some are ruffled, and some, like Thai basil, are favored for specific cuisines. Pictured above is my African blue basil.
Basil is one of those wonderful garden plants that just keeps on giving. Unlike radishes and beets that are done once you harvest them, basil plants provide their pungent goodness for months if you treat them right. Harvesting basil so that it produces all summer long is easy.
Basil likes warm weather, tolerates heat, and prefers well-drained but moist soil. Direct sow seeds after your last frost date, once the ground has warmed. Trust me; trying to get a jump on it by planting too soon will just waste basil seeds. If you opt to start basil seedlings for transplanting, a grow light and a heat mat to increase the soil temperature will greatly improve your odds. Plant basil seeds or seedlings in full sun. Water deeply and regularly, and side dress with compost or well aged manure.
Basil varies in height a bit based on variety, but most basil plants grow about one to two foot tall.
Varieties of basil
There are numerous varieties of basil to plant in the garden. Genovese basil is the popular heirloom that many of us plant in our gardens (it’s a favorite for making pesto), but there are a dizzying number of other basil varieties to choose from. There’s large leaf basil, curly leaf basil, frilly basil, and purple basil. Then there are basil varieties that feature other flavors, such as lemon basil, cinnamon basil, clove basil, and lime basil.
Basil varieties to look for include:
- Genovese basil
- Thai basil
- Cinnamon basil
- African blue basil (perennial in warm climates, shown at top)
- Holy basil
- Lemon basil
There are many named varieties of basil from different origins. You can see more here.
These rules for harvesting basil apply for growing basil indoors, too, though an indoor basil plant might not need to be trimmed as frequently since it’s unlikely that it will grow as vigorously inside as it would in a sunny garden bed. Basil can also be grown as microgreens!
When to harvest basil
You can harvest basil from a healthy, mature plant just about any time. Snip off the basil leaves you want to use in recipes as you need them.
When flower buds start to form on a mature plant, it’s time to really prune your basil. If the plant is allowed to flower, it will put energy into trying to regenerate itself by making seeds. You want to prevent that, so that you’ll have a basil harvest all summer long.
If you see flower heads beginning to form on a young plant, pinch them off. Pinching the flower heads off prevents the plant from putting energy into producing seeds, allowing it to grow more foliage.
25+ Basil Recipes You Need to Try for a Flavorful Meal (or Dessert!)
How to pick basil leaves for continued growth
Harvesting basil needs to be done regularly. Regular harvesting inhibits flower production on growing basil plants so the plant will continue to produce leaves and provide an abundant basil harvest.
Here’s how to trim basil: Simply use scissors to prune off the upper leaf clusters. Make your cut close to the set of leaves below. No scissors? It’s perfectly okay just to pinch the basil from the plant with your fingers. Often, you’ll need to cut more than one leaf cluster, and that’s okay. Just be sure to snip right above the set of leaves you’re planning to leave on the plant. New growth will sprout from that point, allowing you to harvest throughout the season.
You’ll want to make sure to leave some green growth so that the plant can do its photosynthesis thing, but the plant will be noticeably smaller. Prune basil every week or two, to keep your plant healthy. The cut stems and leaves are your basil harvest.
I have almost a dozen plants and these provide enough basil every time I harvest to make two batches of pesto – one to eat fresh, one for the freezer.
Besides girls and pesto and Italian food, here’s another reason to grow basil: Bees.
Bees love basil
While we humans love growing basil for its pungent leaves, the bees love it for the flowers.
Trouble is, in order to maintain a continuous harvest of sweet basil leaves growing all summer long, the flower heads need to be removed. Allowed to flower, the plants will go to seed and stop producing those fresh lovely leaves. Luckily, there’s an easy solution. Plant several extra basil plants. Once you’ve harvested the first batch of leaves, allow a few plants to go into flowering mode.
The bees will appreciate it, and you can continue harvesting leaves from the plants you’ve designated as “yours.”
Saving basil seeds
I’ve had good success with saving and replanting basil seeds for a sustainable basil harvest, year to year. If you want to gather seeds, choose one basil plant as your seed producer. Let it flower and watch as those flower heads turn to seeds. Allow the seed to brown on the plant.
If wet weather threatens, you’ll want to clip them and bring them inside to dry. Pull the dry seed pods from the stem. Roll dry pods around in the palm of your hand to remove the small black seeds.
Seal fully dried basil seeds in a paper envelope and store in a cool, dry place. Saving heirloom seeds from year to year is easy to do and will save you the expense of buying seeds.
Using your basil harvest
Growing basil in my garden means I use fresh basil leaves all summer long snipped into in salads, wraps, sandwiches, and for flavoring soups and pasta. By far, though, our favorite way to use it is to make pesto. We spread pesto as a base for wraps, on egg salad sandwiches, and of course, use it in pasta dishes. I freeze pesto in small glass jars for use all through the winter months. I love adding spoonfuls of it to soup!
- My pesto recipe is here.
- Here’s how to dry basil for flavor all year round.
- Add fresh basil to this tomato tart.
This post about growing basil and harvesting basil was originally published in July, 2011; it has been updated