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Knowing how and when to harvest basil is essential if you plan on growing basil in your garden. This is why I put together a guide for how to harvest basil leaves, so you know you’re doing it properly!
When to Harvest Basil
Your first question about harvesting basil leaves is probably when! How do you know when it’s time? You can begin harvesting your basil plants as soon as your plant has at least six sets of leaves. You want to make sure you pick your basil in the early morning when it’s at peak freshness.
How to Harvest Basil Leaves
If you are looking to harvest a small amount of basil, you can remove a few leaves for your cooking needs. If you plan on harvesting a larger amount, you will need to take a few additional steps to ensure that your basil plant continues to produce leaves.
- Cut back entire stems. This will help ensure that you get a basil plant that can produce more leaves.
- Harvest your basil plant from top to bottom.
- If you are cutting entire stems, make sure that you cut to a third of your plant’s height above a leaf pair.
- If you are only cutting back by a third, you will need to wait a few weeks before you can harvest your plant again.
If you don’t regularly harvest your basil plant, you will need to pinch your plant back every six weeks to ensure a good harvest. Be sure to pinch back any of the little white flowers, too.
How to Clean and Store Basil
Once you’ve harvested your basil, it’s straightforward to clean and store for later use.
To wash your basil, place your basil leaves into a bowl of cold water. If you don’t want to use a dish, you can also use a water-filled sink as long as it’s clean. Make sure you use a lot of water when washing your basil plant to ensure that you don’t leave any dirt on the leaves. You’ll know your basil is clean when the herbs float clear.
There are two different ways you can store basil based on when you plan to use it. The first way is one of the best ways to save it but isn’t always possible.
- Water-method: Trim the cut ends of your basil and put the bunch into a glass or jar with water. Place it in the fridge, and cover the basil leaves with a plastic bag. Make sure the whole thing fits in the refrigerator. Your basil plant should last up to a week stored this way.
- Towel method: If you can’t store your basil in water in the fridge, the next best option is to store it like other salad greens. Remove the leaves of your basil from their stem and lay them in a single layer on a paper towel. Roll them up and put them in a plastic bag. You may need to replace the paper towel after a few days.
How to Freeze Basil
If you are looking to freeze your basil for later use, it’s fairly easy to do!
- First, remove the basil leaves from the stem and toss the leaves in a pot of boiling water.
- You only need to put them in for about five seconds. After a few seconds, remove them and drain the water and add them to a bowl of iced water. Basil requires blanching to hold its texture and flavor when frozen.
- After a few seconds, remove the leaves and dry them completely.
- Store them in a freezer-safe container in the fridge until you need to use them!
How to Dry Basil
Dried basil will last longer than fresh basil, but is usually much stronger than fresh herbs. The leaves of a basil plant are high in moisture, so they need to dry quickly to prevent mold from growing.
Here is how to dry basil:
- Harvest your basil plant in the morning just after the morning dew has air dried the leaves.
- Next, cut the herbs from your plant before it gets too hot.
- Remove the steps from above the growth node (about ¼ inch back)
- Cut the steps and bind them together in small bunches.
- Hang them to dry in a dimly lit room that has low humidity and warm temperature. If you can’t do this option, you can also dry basil using a food dehydrator.
How to Use Basil
Basil is probably one of the most well-known herbs in your garden. It pairs so well with so many different types of dishes and is a must in any herb garden.
One of my favorite (and easiest!) recipes to make is Caprese Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner with loads of fresh basil. It is SO good! here are a few other great recipes that include basil:
- Tomato Basil Compound Butter – with just a few simple ingredients, this compound butter is perfect on pasta, garlic bread, and more!
- Creamy Tomato Basil Soup – soup is the ultimate comfort food for a cold winter’s day and nothing is as nostalgic as tomato soup.
- Caprese Antipasticks Appetizer – whip up these appetizers in no time and be sure to serve with balsamic vinegar.
- Caprese Grilled Zucchini – this is the perfect summer side dish you will crave time and again! Even the pickiest of veggie eaters will love this one.