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:
Add fresh, chopped basil leaves to:
- Salad greens
- Sandwiches and wraps
- Bread dough
- Scrambled eggs