How to Harvest Fresh Basil So You Can Enjoy it All Season

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How to Harvest Fresh Basil So You Can Enjoy it All Season

Growing basil is easy in a sunny spot, either in the ground or in containers. Then, once you know how to harvest basil, you can grab some leaves whenever you need to add flavor to your next meal.

Growing basil costs much less than buying fresh basil at the grocery store. And you can grow interesting varieties, such as Thai basil and lemon basil, which offer exciting flavor differences. Whichever type of basil you add to your garden, the key to getting the most out of this herb is knowing how to harvest basil leaves without damaging or killing the plant. Here’s the best way to harvest basil and store fresh basil.

bunch of basil

When to Harvest Basil

Whether you start basil from seeds or buy a young plant, the best time to harvest basil depends on the size of your plant. You’ll know the time is right when the plant has unfurled at least four sets of leaves. Your basil plant should be between 6 and 8 inches tall before you harvest its leaves. If you know when the plant was seeded, you can count on the basil being ready for harvest 60 to 70 days later.

This Summer Vegetable Garden Plan Fills the Gaps After a Spring Harvest

The best time of day to harvest basil is in the morning after the dew has evaporated from the plants. And when cold weather arrives again after the summer, harvest your basil before a frost kills the plant. You can also move your basil plants inside your home by a sunny window or under a grow light to keep them going into winter.

How to Harvest Basil Leaves

Basil is a fast-growing herb that produces plenty of flavorful foliage. When you only need a few, the best way to harvest basil leaves is to pinch off each leaf at its base, where the leaf meets the stem. Start harvesting basil leaves from the top of the plant, where more foliage will quickly fill in. If you harvest the bottom leaves first, the plant will likely look lanky and thin. For the most flavorful leaves, harvest them before the flowers appear.

How to Harvest Basil Stems

When you want to harvest more than just a few leaves at a time, you can remove full stems of basil by trimming the plant from the top down with a small pair of scissors. Aim to cut the stems about ¼-inch above a node (the point where the plant’s leaves and side shoots emerge). Remove no more than a third of the plant’s total height at a time so that you’ll be able to harvest more newly developed basil leaves in two to three weeks.

To encourage your basil plant to continue growing more leaves throughout the summer, trim away the flower buds before they blossom. Basil cuttings are also easy to root in water to start new plants.

basil types in glass vase

How to Store Fresh Basil

The best way to store fresh basil for a few days is to clip the sprigs and treat them like fresh cut flowers: place them in water at room temperature for up to five days. Basil should not be refrigerated because it quickly turns brown in cold temperatures. You can also dry basil leaves and experience them any time of year. Freezing basil is another option if you’re looking to add basil at any time to soups, casseroles, breakfast skillets, and more.

How to Use Fresh Basil Leaves

Growing basil right outside your door is a must for enjoying this herb’s full flavor, either fresh or cooked. After harvesting basil, toss a handful of leaves on top of a pizza or garnish your favorite pasta dish. Also, add a basil leaf or two to lemonade to make a refreshing treat.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I plant basil?

    The best time to plant basil outdoors is in early spring, approximately two weeks after the last frost. You can start seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost, but you will want to wait until the soil has reliably warmed to at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit before planting basil in the ground.

  • How long can a basil plant live?

    Depending on the climate and growing conditions, a basil plant lasts about four to six months. It may survive longer if the plant is grown indoors (or without the threat of chilly temperatures).

  • Will basil grow back if I cut it to the ground?

    Basil will return if you harvest it properly, but cutting it to the ground isn’t recommended. Be sure to prune from the top down and only trim about one-third of the way down to allow the plant to regenerate.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.