Steps to Harvest Basil

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Lawn & Garden

Herb gardens provide a great way to showcase your gardening skills and add a fresh taste to your meals. Basil is a simple herb to harvest and with an abundance of leaves, the possibilities for fresh meals are endless. Below are the steps to grow and harvest basil.

  1. Determine the type of basil you want to cultivate. Take into consideration the climate of your location and select the most appropriate variety. Additionally, consider the purpose of the basil. Genovese basil, a strain with dark leaves, is ideal for pesto while Sweet Greek basil is best for salads [source: Ward].
  2. If you are starting with seeds or if the temperature is near freezing at night, plant your basil in indoor pots. Basil plants cannot handle the cold, and frost will be detrimental to their growth. Place the pots in an area with plenty of sunlight and warmth [source: Ward].
  3. When the weather is warm, you can transplant the basil to an area outdoors that has well-drained soil and plenty of sun exposure. Water the plants daily or as frequently as needed to keep the soil moist. By mid-summer, your basil plant should be ready for harvesting [source: Day].
  4. The best time to harvest basil leaves is when they are medium-sized (large leaves may have lost their flavor) and the plant is at least 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters) tall [source: Seeley]. To harvest a little bit of basil, cut medium to large leaves off the stem. To harvest a lot of basil, cut the stem itself up to a third of the way from the top of the plant [source: Day]. The basil will continue to grow after being harvested.

Prior to the first frost, cut the stems down to the bottom and immediately use or freeze all the leaves [source: Day]. As basil is an annual herb, if the roots are not harmed during the winter, the plant will sprout again in the following spring.


1. What is the best time to harvest basil?

The best time to harvest basil is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun gets too hot. This is when the leaves are at their freshest and most flavorful.

2. How do I know when my basil is ready to be harvested?

You can start harvesting basil when the plant has at least six leaves. Look for leaves that are fully grown and don’t have any yellowing or browning. You can continue to harvest basil throughout the growing season until the first frost.

3. Should I prune my basil plant?

Yes, pruning your basil plant is important for encouraging new growth and preventing it from becoming too woody. Pinch off the top two sets of leaves on each stem to encourage branching and bushiness.

4. Can I harvest basil leaves individually or should I cut the whole stem?

You can harvest basil leaves individually by pinching them off at the stem. Alternatively, you can cut the whole stem just above a pair of leaves. This will encourage the plant to produce new growth from that point.

5. How should I store my harvested basil?

Harvested basil can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also freeze basil by chopping it up and placing it in ice cube trays with a little bit of water. Once frozen, pop the cubes out and store them in a freezer bag.

6. What should I do with the flowers that grow on my basil plant?

It’s best to pinch off any flowers that grow on your basil plant as soon as you see them. This will encourage the plant to focus its energy on growing leaves rather than flowers.

7. Can I still harvest basil after it has flowered?

Yes, you can still harvest basil after it has flowered, but the flavor may not be as strong. Just be sure to pinch off any flowers you see to encourage new leaf growth.

8. How often should I harvest my basil?

You can harvest basil as often as you like throughout the growing season. Just be sure to leave enough leaves on the plant so that it can continue to grow and produce more leaves.

9. What is the best way to dry basil?

The best way to dry basil is to hang it upside down in a warm, dry place. Once the leaves are dry and brittle, you can remove them from the stem and store them in an airtight container.

10. Should I wash my basil before I use it?

Yes, it’s a good idea to wash your basil before using it to remove any dirt or debris. Just be sure to pat it dry with a paper towel before using it in your recipe.

11. What are some recipes that use fresh basil?

There are many recipes that use fresh basil, including caprese salad, pesto sauce, tomato sauce, and bruschetta. You can also add fresh basil to soups, stews, and roasted vegetables for extra flavor.

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