How to Harvest Basil

Basil is such a pretty herb.
Basil is such a pretty herb. | Source

If you have an herb garden, chances are that you grow basil. It's a beautiful herb and it's incredibly useful in the kitchen. It doesn't get much better than being able to just snip off a few leaves when a recipe calls for fresh basil.

How do you go about harvesting basil? It's hard to mess it up, but there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind.

With these tips, you'll be able to have the perfect amount of basil for cooking, while keeping a happy and healthy plant. Read on to learn how to get the most out of your basil plants.

When to Harvest Basil

You'll want to harvest/prune when the plant has four to six sets of leaves. Make sure you water your plant the night before to rinse off dust. This will also ensure that the leaves are not dehydrated in the morning.

Most experienced basil growers recommend harvesting in the morning, right after the morning dew evaporates. This will ensure that you get the best flavor.

Mmm, freshly picked Basil!
Mmm, freshly picked Basil! | Source

How to Grow Basil

Of course, it would also be convenient to know about actually growing basil. This video gives you some basic tips for growing this popular herb.

Harvesting Basil Leaves

Getting a good basil harvest starts with pruning your plant. (Hint: This is where you get the basil for kitchen-use, so make sure you hang onto what you prune.)

There are two ways you can harvest your basil

  1. You might consider pruning the plant just above the bottom two sets of leaves every three weeks or so. You can use these leaves as you cut away.
  2. The other method is to just cut off the top set of leaves every week.

You will end up getting about the same amount of basil regardless of the method you choose. I recommend doing what works best in the kitchen (whether you need a lot of fresh basil at once or just a little bit at a time.)

Basil seedlings
Basil seedlings | Source

How to Dry Basil

If you have more basil than you can immediately use, you should definitely consider drying and storing it. Dried basil isn't quite as flavorful as fresh basil, but is still great in those months when you can't use it right out of your garden.

A great way to dry it is to place a single layer of stripped basil leaves between two sheets of newspaper and hang it on a wire rack. The newspaper helps to reduce the oxidation and discoloration that would occur if the basil is simply exposed to open air. You'll should turn it frequently for best results.

Some basil growers finish the process by drying it in the oven with a baking sheet but some people argue that this can lead to a burnt taste or a loss of essential oils and flavor.

Once you have thoroughly dried your basil, it can be stored for up to a year in an airtight container stored in a cool, dark place. It can also be frozen loose in a bag or, alternatively, you can add a light coating of oil to it before running it through a food processor. The latter method makes a great addition to dressings and pesto.

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Comments 10 comments

Cathy Fidelibus profile image

Cathy Fidelibus 4 years ago from NJ

Interesting and informative.The dehydrator is how I dry my basil. Is drying basil between newspaper preferable to a dehydrator?


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

Oh man, now I feel like some basil and some roasted garlic. That also reminds me: I have a BUNCH of basil to dry before the first frost. Your hub was helpful! :) Voted/tweeted/pinned.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

I love basil, and am glad you wrote this article about it! Will your drying method also work for sage? I have a plant that I want to harvest before it freezes. Voted Up, Useful and Interesting. Also Pinned.


Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

Pavlo Badovskyy 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

Hi. We grow it as well but my wife used it only fresh. Now we try to store it as well. Great advices!


CloudExplorer profile image

CloudExplorer 4 years ago from New York City

I like this informative hub on gardening, and growing Basil, its short its sweet and straight to the point, oh and its well written as well as useful too. Nicely done Melbel thumbs up and getting shared.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

Basil tastes best when it is picked before 1st September, really! On that date it begins to taste minty. I'm linking this wonderful hub to mine. Thanks for a great hub on such a great herb. Very useful suggestions and tips!


howlermunkey profile image

howlermunkey 4 years ago from Tampa, FL

Had no idea on how to properly dry Basil, awesome. Up and Sharing.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

I love basil and use it a lot in cooking. Thanks for all the tips on growing basil - I usually sit a plant out on the patio and I don't do much with it. These are great suggestions and advice. Thanks for sharing this with us.


melbel profile image

melbel 4 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan Author

Herb gardens are so nice. Ever since I started growing Basil, I've really noticed that I'm so inclined to use it and it makes everything so much yummier than if I'd used dried Basil. Thank you so much for your comment. :)


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Excellent hub! I have been doing the green thing and considering an herb garden. Sharing!

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