How to Harvest and Use Basil from Your Garden

Harvested basil
Basil has many uses in home-cooked meals.

If you planted basil in your garden and all has gone according to plan, by midsummer you’ll have lots of fresh basil luring you with its minty aroma and threatening to go to seed any minute.

However, if you were ambitious in your planting, you may be wondering what on earth you’re going to do with all this goodness!

Here are some tips for harvesting, using, and preserving the fresh basil from your garden.

How to Harvest Basil

You can pick basil leaves as needed at any time – in fact, harvesting encourages the plant to produce more leaves.
Morning is the best time of day, but don’t hesitate to pick basil whenever you need it.

For best results:

Harvesting Small Amounts: Pick a few leaves off each plant, rather than cutting off a whole stem. While you’re picking, periodically pinch off the branch tips, to encourage the plant to fill out.
Also, remove any flower buds and either discard or use as a garnish.

Harvesting Larger Amounts: Harvest the leaves from the top down, cutting back up to a third of the total plant height. Be sure to cut or pinch right above a leaf pair rather than leaving a stub. In a few weeks, your basil plants will be ready to harvest again.

Final Harvest: At the end of the season (before the first frost), cut the stems to the ground and pick off all the leaves. Add the stems to the compost pile, and bring the leaves indoors for an afternoon of cooking and preserving.

How to Use Basil

Your first task is to remove the leaves from the stems, discard any dead or spotted leaves, rinse the basil thoroughly, and allow it to air dry (or pat dry with a towel).

There’s no end to yummy ways to use this herb:

Fresh Basil:

Add fresh, chopped basil leaves to:

    Add basil to pasta.
  • Salad greens
  • Dressings
  • Sandwiches and wraps
  • Vinegars
  • Oils
  • Bread dough
  • Soups
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Sauces
  • Pasta
  • Marinades


  1. I have become a huge fan of pesto and this was my first year for growing basil. I am so happy that I came across your article on how to store and use this amazing plant. I can’t wait to make fresh olive oil and basil sauce for pasta, and many other ideas that you listed. I have moved my plants indoor and hope to use them all winter long and take them back outside next spring. Thank you again for the wonderful idea.

  2. LOVE LOVE basil!! I also have frozen basil in ice cube trays with olive oil instead of water, with a bit of chopped garlic……just add to soups, pasta or sauce…..YUMMY
    and last year, I came across a recipe for BASIL JAM! OMG!!!!! SOOOO yummy. I served it over a block of cream cheese, with raspberry jalapeno jam and stone wheat crackers!!! real pleasing to the eye at christmas!!! and oh so good!!!

  3. I’m looking for a recipe on how to make Basil cleaning products. I boiled some up, in hopes of using the water to rinse my laundry but it was reddish-brown in color and I was afraid that it would dye my sheets that color!
    Also looking for cleaning recipe that would use all the Rosemary I’ve got. Thanks!

  4. I made basil salt from the recipe that foodnetwork published a couple of years ago. I made one batch and was so pleased, that I made lots and gave away at Christmas time. I found that a little b/salt in you scrambled eggs,a dash in a salad. Just before serving fresh dried basil on top of you spaghetti sauce. When having guest for dinner, place some basil leaves on a paper towel and microwave 1/2 power for 3 minutes. The smell in the house is wonderful.

  5. This year, I grew basil more than ever. I put it in containers on my front covered porch, back deck and my vegetable garden in between my tomatoes. So lets just say, I have a lot of basil and its not going away, My favorite things to do with basil is pizza with my fresh tomatoes that I grow. Caprese salad, and pesto of course on my homemade baguettes, or even in some pasta . Yum Yum. I also make pesto and put it in ice cube trays and after they freeze, jut pop them out and put in freezer bags. Works wonderfully. Thanks for letting me share some ideas. I love yours.

  6. Pick leaves, stack them on top of each other till about 1/2″ thick. Then roll the bundle into a tight roll put in a freezer bag and use year long.

  7. I planted some Basil sweet seeds. I’m proud of myself, because this is the first time that I ever grown basil especially on the balcony of my apartment. This basil smells good and I can’t wait to try it in my food.

  8. Great article. My basil stems were getting too tall and bending over. Now i know what to do to prevent the stems from becoming too tall. The article is very helpful and informative.

  9. I just grew my very first plant… which is basil and it’s still alive lol got to say I am quite pleased with myself because I always killed every plant… however my sister is a pro with all plants after taking horticulture and working at a place that deals primarily with plants. I had her help at first lol but I am so so excited to see how big my basil has gotten. ? I’m also trying to grow tiger lilies.


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