How to Harvest Basil
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.)
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.