Basil is one of the most popular herbs to grow. It makes for a delicious addition to a variety of dishes and with dozens of varieties. We like to grow Italian and Thai basil, as well as a few other varieties that change each year.
Once your basil grows and it’s time to harvest, we’ve got a few tips that will help you to keep your fragrant and delicious basil tasting as best as it can. Generally harvest only what you need before you begin your cooking. Like many tender greens, basil is best harvested in the morning shortly after the morning dew has evaporated. Harvesting at this time means the plants will not wilt as quickly if you were to harvest under the hot afternoon sun.
We like to cut off basil tops/stems rather than pinching individual leaves. This helps to encourage new lateral growth that makes for a more bushy plant as opposed to a more tall plant. When cutting the stem, leave at least 1/2 of the plant while allowing existing leaves to generate enough energy for new growth, though later in the season you can be a bit more aggressive with your harvesting. Cut away any flower heads you see developing unless you want to save your own seeds.
After harvesting, we recommend storing basil either in a perforated bag or in a glass of water (similar to cut flowers), ideally at around 15C. Do not store basil in the fridge as this can cause chilling injury symptoms like brown/black leaves and loss of flavour.
If you have an excess of basil, we find it stores very nicely while frozen. We chop it finely in a food processor, place the chopped basil into empty ice cube trays, and cover with olive oil. Making it into pesto with garlic, parmesan and pine nuts before freezing is another option.
When it comes to dehydrating basil leaves, there are mixed opinions in terms of quality and taste. Due to its delicate nature, many people (including us) find that it loses much of its flavour when dried. If you are dehydrating basil yourself, we’ve got a few tips we can suggest. First, get your basil drying as quickly as you can after harvesting. Wash and remove any poor quality leaves and lay out in a single layer. Use a low temperature (35C/95F or less) to dry the basil and then store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight until ready to use. Despite the loss of flavour, it can be a convenient method to process and store an excess of basil.
Do you need help with your basil harvest and storage? Talk to us about how we can help you maximize your basil and garden harvest. [Got a Tip?] If you have a tip to share with your fellow urban farmers, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want More Tips? Browse our Tips Archive for more.