Is pasta ever really complete without sprinkling some basil on top? Basil, also known as great basil is a culinary herb that has a strong, sweet flavor. It comes in different varieties with different tastes. Sweet basil is peppery with a subtle mint taste, whereas Thai basil is more savory. Basil leaves are mostly used in cooking to boost flavor and aroma in food.
Basil has a number of healthy nutrients like vitamin A, C, and K as well as manganese, iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. So consuming basil is actually good for you. You can even make essential oil from basil and with anti-oxidant properties, it can help soothe and heal skin infections and cuts.
Warm weather is ideal for growing basil. You should plant seeds only once the chances of frost have passed. A location with 6 to 8 hours of sun daily would be great. Moist, well-drained, and warm soil is best. You might also be wondering how and when to harvest basil.
When to Harvest Basil?
Fortunately, basil does not take long to grow. After planting, you can expect to harvest your basil leaves within three to four weeks. But how would you know when exactly to pick it?
When the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall, it means you can start harvesting the leaves. Another indicator for harvest is as soon as the plant has at least six sets of leaves. Basically, you can keep picking basil leaves as you need them. You may measure the tallest part of the basil as the basis as to when to start harvesting the basil. Start harvesting at the top part of your basil, that way, it encourages growth and will lead the basil to become have a bushier growth.
There is also an ideal time in the day when you should harvest basil leaves. Morning’s hours are preferable because the leaves will be juiciest and packed with oils at this time. You must harvest all of your basil leaves before the first frost.
It’s best to keep harvesting leaves regularly as this encourages more growth in the plant. So it would be better to pick them regularly and store them. Freezing is the best way to store basil as it preserves most of the flavor. You can also dry the basil before storing them.
Typically, twelve basil plans will give you an adequate supply of 4 to 6 cups of leaves every week.
How to Dry Basil?
Before you dry the basil, leaves must be carefully and gently gathered without bruising them. Bruised or damaged basil usually turns brown or black and releases oil prematurely causing it to lose its’ aroma and flavor. Next, how to dry basil properly?
One of the easiest and simplest ways to dry basil leaves is a natural way; air-drying. You can tie together a bunch of them using a string or band. Then, hang them upside down in a dry and well-ventilated area with a recommended temperature of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (15-20 degrees Celsius). Just make sure that the site is free from pests and insects.
However, air-drying takes quite some time. Drying will complete in at least 2 to 4 weeks. If there was any moisture left on the leaves, this might also cause mold to form.
Or, you can use a microwave to dry basil in only 2 to 3 minutes. This method is also commonly used because it is quick and also preserves most of the flavor. The process is simple. Clean the leaves properly, then place them safely in the microwave. Keep heating the leaves for 20-30 seconds and keep checking. Once the leaves have curled and dry- you’ll be done.
How to Prune Basil?
The way you prune your basil leaves is actually very significant and as it affects the growth of the plant too. In fact, the plants’ health completely depends on it.
A thought that might pop in your head right now is how may pruning benefit the plant? It seems counterproductive to cut off some parts of the plant to encourage growth and better health, but it isn’t actually so and let me explain why.
You see, think of pruning as managing and saving some limited energy resources. Since you don’t have infinite energy resources, you will need to cut off some power to non-essential components and direct them to much-needed components. By doing so, the production output increases by being efficient, and this same logic applies to your basil.
When we cut off some dying, sick, or those leaves that have molds in them. We get rid of some nonessential parts that are a burden to the plant and instead we promote growth in some much-needed areas.
There are things that you have to consider first before you start pruning. Printing when done in the right way will benefit the plant greatly, but if not, you may unintentionally kill the plant instead. For you to do it right we will need to discuss how to prune your basil.
One mistake many people make while pruning basil is that they go for the biggest leaves first, especially the ones growing at the bottom. These leaves are actually the most integral for the plants’ growth. They absorb most of the sunlight and ensure that the plant is getting its’ nutrients. Hence, removing these leaves can damage the whole plant.
So how to prune basil the right way?
Before you start pruning your basil, you need to have the proper tools first. You can use some shears or scissors to do the job, and as much as possible avoid simply plucking the plant as that can damage the plant unless this guide specifically asks for it. Those tools also need to be cleaned as well to avoid spreading some diseases to your basil. Use some bleach or alcohol to do the job.
Go for the leaves growing at the top of the plant first. These may be smaller in size but it’s good for the plant. Here’s a fun fact: Whenever you remove the basil leaves at the top, two new branches form in the spot where you pruned from. This means more leaves, which when cut, will produce more branches again. This method helps your basil plant grow the right way.
When the plant starts to mature, it will start growing some flowers at the top of the plant. Flowers are ideal for your basil if you only want your basil for ornamental purposes. However, since you are planning to use your basil for culinary purposes, the flowers may well be counterproductive instead. This so happens because the hormones of the plant are focused on the flower instead of using it in the leaves which you will have use for.
Thus, we need to get rid of flowers that are growing in your basil. To do this we get rid of the problem, simply pinch or cut the flower off the bail plant. By doing so the plant prioritizes leaf production instead of the flowers.
When you prune basil leaves, you must remember how delicate they are. Even a small bruise can release the aroma from the leaves while oil dissipates quickly. Be very careful as you prune the leaves. Regular pruning your basil leaves the right way will encourage your plant to get bushier and bigger.
When to Harvest Oregano?
A herb that complements basil very well and can also be grown at home is oregano. While basil has some minty and peppery accents, oregano is more earthy but strong. In fact, they work so well together that oregano is known as the best substitute for basil.
Similar to basil, oregano is a warm-season crop and it loves the sun. It can even thrive in poor soil as long as it is well-drained. It is also one of the easiest herbs to grow.
It is very easy to figure out when to harvest oregano. The best time to harvest it is right before flowers begin to bloom. So when the flower buds are forming, you can remove the leaves. At this point, they will be the most flavorful.
Isn’t it amazing to have your own herbs growing in your garden? You can add a dash of aroma to food anytime and make it taste significantly better. When it comes to basil, it’s very convenient to grow and has lots of uses and benefits. And you have many varieties to try- cinnamon basil, purple basil, and Thai basil to name a few.
Regular and careful pruning is crucial for these plants’ health and growth as well as maximum flavor. Understanding how and when to harvest basil now has you prepared to grow your own fresh basil.
Now that you have learned how and when to harvest your basil, do you have any questions? Perhaps you would want to share some tips instead? Feel free to comment below! We also offer some guides as well such as How to Grow Kale and How To Grow Red Onions.