Basil is one of the most popular herbs in home cooking and gardening. With its sweet aroma, vibrant flavor, and attractive leaves, it’s easy to understand why so many people love basil. But harvesting basil leaves can be intimidating if you don’t know how to do it properly. In this post, we’ll go over everything from gathering and picking your own basil leaves, selecting the right leaves for cooking, handling them correctly, storing them after harvest, using dried basil leaves, and more. By following these steps, you’ll have fresh and flavorful basil year-round!
Basil Harvest Basics
Harvesting basil leaves is an enjoyable process that begins with gathering or picking your own basil plants. The best time to pick basil is early morning when the oils are at their peak. Before harvesting, make sure to remove any dead or discolored leaves first as they can spread disease and infestations.
The Benefits Of Picking Your Own Basil Leaves
Picking your own basil leaves offers a number of advantages. You get to enjoy fresher, more flavorful basil than store-bought varieties. Plus, since you harvested the leaves yourself, you can guarantee that no pesticides or other chemicals were used during growth. Finally, by harvesting your own basil leaves, you get to save money since you won’t have to buy it from the store.
How To Select The Right Leaves For Cooking
When selecting the perfect leaves for cooking, look for those that are dark green in color and relatively large. Avoid smaller yellowish or brownish leaves as they will not have much flavor. Also, select leaves that are free of any holes or blemishes as these could indicate an infestation. Once you’ve found some suitable leaves, gently pluck them off the stem and place them in a paper bag or container until ready to use.
Handling And Preparing Fresh Basil Leaves
Once you’ve picked your own basil leaves, handle them with care. Avoid washing them until just before you’re ready to cook with them as wetting them too soon can cause the leaves to wilt. If necessary, trim away any long stems and give the leaves a light rinse under cool water before chopping and adding them to recipes.
Storing Basil After You’ve Picked It
If you plan on keeping your freshly picked basil around for a few days or longer, it’s important to store it properly. Immediately after harvesting, wrap the basil in damp paper towels or a clean cloth and place it in an airtight container like a Mason jar. Make sure to keep the lid slightly open to allow for airflow and prevent molding. Alternatively, you can freeze freshly picked basil in plastic bags for up to six months.
Recipes To Make With Freshly Picked Basil
Freshly picked basil adds amazing flavor and fragrance to a variety of dishes. Here are a few delicious recipes that you can try out:
- Bruschetta – Toast slices of rustic bread and top with chopped tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, freshly picked basil, and salt & pepper to taste.
- Pesto – Blend together parmesan cheese, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, freshly picked basil leaves, and garlic until smooth. Serve over pasta or grilled meats.
- Caprese Salad – Slice fresh mozzarella into thin rounds and layer with tomato slices, freshly picked basil leaves, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and serve chilled.
Organic Gardening Tips For Growing Basil At Home
Organically growing basil at home is a great way to ensure that you always have access to high quality ingredients without needing to worry about harsh chemical exposure or buying pre-packaged options from stores. When planting basil outdoors, choose a sunny spot with well-draining soil and consider using raised beds for better drainage. Water regularly but avoid overwatering and fertilize every two weeks with an organic fertilizer such as compost tea or fish emulsion. Protect seedlings from frost by covering with row cover fabric or burlap bags during cold weather.
Essential Tools For Gathering Basil Leaves
Gathering basil leaves requires the right tools to make the job easier and less time consuming. Start with basic garden shears or scissors to easily snip off individual leaves (or entire branches). Then invest in pruning shears which have curved blades designed specifically for cutting delicate herbs like basil. Pruning shears also help reduce accidental bruising which can lead to wilting faster. Lastly, you may want to pick up some protective gloves so your hands stay clean while harvesting.
Growing Basil In Containers Or Beds Outdoors
For those who prefer to grow their own basil outdoors instead of indoors, containers or raised beds offer excellent results. Choose an area with plenty of sunlight and opt for self-watering pots if possible (such as terracotta ones) as these help maintain moisture levels throughout the day. Alternatively, build your own raised bed using untreated wood boards filled with good quality potting soil mixed with perlite or vermiculite for better drainage.
Uses Of Dried Basil Leaves
Dried basil still contains all of the same flavor compounds as its fresh counterpart, making it ideal for spicing up marinades, soups, sauces, casseroles, stews, and salad dressings among others. Additionally, many people like to use dried basil in homemade pesto where it provides both a hint of sweetness and a subtle smoky note due to its slow drying process. Dried basil can last for up to 12 months stored in an airtight container away from direct heat or light sources.
In conclusion, picking your own basil leaves is an easy and rewarding activity that allows you to enjoy fresher flavor and save money compared to buying pre-packaged versions from stores. Gather the right tools like garden shears or pruning shears along with protective gloves then carefully harvest the plant either in containers or beds outdoors according to specific guidelines mentioned above. Finally, remember that once gathered you should take extra care when handling the leaves; wash only right before cooking with them and store properly either in a closed container at room temperature or frozen in airtight bags for future use.
I am an inspired, life-long homesteader with a heart for simple, sustainable living. Growing up surrounded by farmland in the rural Midwest, I developed a deep respect for nature and the rewards of cultivating your own land. That’s why I’m passionate about helping others become homesteaders, too. Through my website therootedhomestead.com, I share my DIY tips, share inspiring stories of other homesteaders, and provide resources for anyone who dreams of growing their own food or living off the land. I hope to open a door to a more joyful, meaningful and purposeful life for all.