For those of you who may be new to growing basil or haven’t had much luck growing it in the past, this will help you get the most out of your basil plant.
When to Pick Basil
There is no set time to harvest basil. In fact, it is better for the plant to harvest frequently. Pruning the leaves encourages new leaves to grow and will help you produce a much larger amount of healthy basil compared to only occasionally pruning or taking a few basil leaves here and there for your meals. Basil plants only last a year so why not try to get as much as possible.
The best way to give your basil a boost before harvesting is to give the plant a good soak the night before. The leaves will not only be cleaned of any dust or dirt, but they will also retain water and last longer after being picked. Pick the leaves in the morning after the dew has dried and before the heat has a chance to dry the leaves out.
How to Pick Basil
Harvesting Small Amounts
Pick a few leaves but do not cut off the whole stem. Every once in a while pinch off the branch tips in order to help the plant fill out more. If it is early on in your harvesting, remove any flower buds so the plant will continue to grow as much as possible.
Harvesting Large Amounts
Harvest from the top down and cut back to about a third of the total plant height. Pinch directly above the leaf pair to encourage growth. In a few weeks you will be able to do this again. Harvesting like this will allow you to harvest large amounts every three weeks and get the most out of your plant.
The Last Harvest
Before the first frost comes, cut the stems to the ground and pick off all the leaves. The stems can be composted.
To have fresh basil for up to a year after the last harvest, place it in a Ziploc bag and place it in the freezer for long term storage.