A reader recently wrote in to ask about harvesting basil for my pesto recipe. Today was a fine time for cutting back two of my big basil plants, so I thought I'd share with y'all too. Now, I like to grow Genovese basil specifically for use in Italian recipes and that's what you'll see me harvesting for pesto and other tasty Italian recipes. I also grow Thai basil and Greek bush basil. I like to use the Greek kind in couscous and salads (picked right off the bush natch). I like to use the Thai kind in fried rice, stir frys, and spring rolls. You can always buy fresh basil at the store, but that costs an arm and a leg. Just buy a plant and love on it a while. You'll be harvesting enough basil that you'll have a surplus in no time. Peace, B.
First, let me tell you, there is no place you shouldn't cut from on your basil plant. I cut from the top of my plants. You can cut from the sides or bottom for a tall, slender plant, but I like for my basil to look bushy. Cutting from the top helps achieve this look. See the flowers at the top of this plant? Regardless of how you cut, you'll want to cut the tops off of the plant before it flowers. Snipping these flowers will help your plant grow even more this time of year. Cut no more than a third of the plant.
I also pull out any discolored leaves from the bottom on the plant to help encourage growth. You also may find a few big leaves to add to your harvest from around the bottom. Yellow leaves go right into the harvest pile. Anything that is brown or black, gets placed in the compost pile along with the flowering tops. If we're having company though, I might use those tops for garnish.
If I find a leaf with some spots, I just pull off the bad part. I treat basil like it's gold.
Again, you can pull those big leaves from the bottom of the plant, but I just like cutting from the top. I think I harvest more basil this way. Now, remember, I'm no gardening expert. I am fabulous though. :o)
Get your teenager to bring you a glass of sweet tea when you sit down to harvest your basil. You'll be amazed by how pleasant the teenager is when she performs this task. (Even adding a slice of lemon to the glass!) Your teenager will be happy to bring you sweet tea because she knows you're going to make her favorite grilled pesto chicken sammies tonight for supper.
I use a basket when I harvest my basil because I harvest as much as the plants yield not necessarily as much as I need for a recipe. In other words, the plants dictate how much I harvest. I have a pile of discards including tops, blackened leaves, and stems. That will go right into my compost bucket and then, it will be added to the big compost pile out by our back garden after supper.
Get your little-Little to help pull the leaves from the stem. The less stem you have, the less woody taste the basil will have.