Basil question... Basil flowered -- now what?

vp_78July 19, 2013

In a nutshell... I unfortunately allowed my basil to flower, and I'm wondering if I can just cut my basil back all the way, or if I need to remove the plant and start over?

The full story....

This is my very first year with a proper raised bed garden, and I've really been enjoying snipping off basil here and there to through into my salads. A couple days ago, I noticed that the basil looked like it was ready to bud soon, so I ran out and bought some parmesan cheese to make delicious homemade pesto.

To my dismay, when I started cutting back my basil, I found several actual flowers. I tasted the leaves and it's really bitter -- I waited too long :(

So my question is -- Can I just snip the basil down to the base and wait for it to regrow, or do I need to rip the entire plant out of the bed and start anew?


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I've never noticed a flavor change in basil. The main reason you cut back the flowers is because it's an annual and will die back if you let it go to seed. I actually let the thai basil flower since the flowers are pretty, but then cut the heads back before it goes to seed.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 11:15PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Don't worry about budding basils. Some varieties do that very early, all the time. What I woul do is to pinch off the new growth of dud or any cluster of buds/flowers. You can use them in cooking. DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY.

The thing is that a lot of people plant basil and never harvest it and suddenly it goes to flower and the gardener is crying : WHAT SHOULD I DO . my basil is bolting !?!? ..?lol
If you use basil regularly, it will rarely have a chance to go to flower/seeds, unless you want that to happen.
Sometimes I plant a Thai Basil in a pot along with parsley, chives, miniature chili,etc .. in a pot just for beauty, not culinary use and I like the basil to flower, the chili to grow fruits and get red ... That is another thing.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 12:19AM
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If it has gone too far you need to let it go to seed and harvest the seeds. There should be time enough if you still have more seeds to try a second crop and save the seeds you get for next year.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 9:24AM
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I usually wait till my sweet basil gets big and bushy and do a mass harvest for pesto. (mmmm, pesto). It often starts to flower in the meantime, so I just pluck the flowers off.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 10:52AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I like the flavor better of my basil if I harvest it early in the day.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 4:01PM
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Ok so I'll harvest it early tomorrow morning and make my pesto.

And this might be a really dumb question, but once I harvest, can I leave the plant in the ground with a couple of remaining leaves? Do I rip out the roots and start over?

Total herb newbie here!

Same question for my chives -- I'm going to harvest to make chive pesto, and if I cut it down to about an inch, will it grow back? Or again should I yank the roots and reseed?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 1:18PM
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balloonflower(5b Denver CO, HZ 5-6, Sunset 2b)

You can leave the basil in ground with a couple leaves and give it a shot--that may be cutting it back too far, but it's worth a try. Or, there's enough season left for a second crop, since it does grow so fast.

Chives--yup, cut about 1-2" above ground (they're shallow rooted, so you don't want to pull on them). They'll keep coming and coming. Harvest the whole clump, or just a few leaves if you only want a little. Chives are perennial--you won't have to reseed them, they'll keep coming.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 3:29PM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

I have heard of people using basil flowers in recipes. By pruning your basil you should be able to rejuvenate it. I find it better to store basil in flower vases of water at room temperature compared to refrigeration. Sometimes, the basil roots in the flower vase and I have successfully transplanted this to a flower pot. I hope I have encouraged you to not give up on your flowering basil plants.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 8:33AM
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nickl(Z7a NJ)

Hello nika:

If your basil is bitter, it isn't because it is flowering. It doesn't go off-flavor. Just the opposite - a lot of people find the flavor to be at its best just as the plant starts to bloom. If you were harvesting whole plants for freezing or for making quantities of pesto, that's when you would do it..
The true basil flavor - the one with all the overtones - comes from the larger leaves. The smaller top leaves and the buds aren't in the same league, but you can use them.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 10:13AM
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