How to Harvest Basil from Your Garden and Use it at Home

Fresh Basil
With summer months rolling in you can be sure to add fresh basil to almost any meal. (IPGGutenburgUKltd/Getty Images)

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.

Cutting Basil
When harvesting your basil, be gentle. You can still use the stems for some recipes. (LeoPatrizi/Getty Images)

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.

Basil Stem and Leaf
Preserving your basil is just as important as how you harvest it! Keep reading on to learn more. (Lidante/Getty Images)

How to Use Harvested Basil

Your first task in harvesting basil 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:

Red Pasta with fresh herbs on top
A complimenting flavor to add on your favorite dinner meals. (DAPA Images)


Whether you like the minty, subtle taste or citrus and spicy taste in your pasta, there’s a basil for each craving.

Margarita Pizza
A meal the kids and adults all can enjoy baking and eating. (THEPALMER/Getty Images)

Cooking Recipes

If you’re a carb lover, basil leaves can be added to many kinds of pasta as well as making your very own pesto sauce or marinara to go along with it!

If you have some tomatoes and garlic lying around nothing can beat that warm and yummy taste of a good margarita pizza or if you prefer cooler foods, it’s always good to slice up some tomatoes and mozzarella topped with freshly harvested basil to snack on!

Basil Tea
Looking for a refreshing drink this month? Read on to learn about basil tea. (Olena Pavlovich/Getty Images)

Basil Tea

To make fresh basil tea:

  • Pour 1 cup of boiling water over two tablespoons of freshly harvested, chopped basil.
  • Steep for five minutes.
  • Sweeten with raw honey to taste.

A variety of basil known as Tulsi (or Holy Basil) is considered a sacred and healing herb in India, and Tulsi tea is a popular stress-relieving and health-promoting tonic.

If you like that fresh minty or zesty scent, basil will be a great addition to your household potpourri. (geax2007/Getty Images)

Basil Fragrance

You can also add dried basil to potpourri, sachets, and homemade cleaning products to give a fresh, clean scent.

How to Preserve Basil

To store freshly harvested basil for later use, you can freeze it or dry it.

Frozen  Basil
Freezing basil is great for preservation and easier to work with in some recipes. (Photoboyko/Getty Images)

Frozen Basil

Freeze the fresh leaves by packing them tightly in an airtight container or plastic bag. Simply break off chunks as needed for garden-fresh flavor in recipes. You can also freeze basil and water in ice cubes for dropping into soups.

Dried Basil
Great taste isn’t the only plus to dried basil; it has some herbal health benefits as well. (photoneye/Getty Images)

Dried Basil

Dry basil by hanging stems in bunches, or spreading leaves out on a tray, in a dark, well-ventilated room.

Once the leaves are good and dry (about a week), you can crumble them into an airtight container.

This dried, harvested basil will last for months.

Further Reading


  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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