When to pick the basil??

the_gardener_1998July 16, 2009

When is a good time to start picking basil? When its tall and bushy or when its short and not very bushy? Because i dont know when i was supposed to pick it, so right now it is about 2-6" tall and really bushy.

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Hi Gardener,
I pick my basil all summer long, never letting it flower by snipping off the buds. I pick several stems off the plant to make pesto which goes in the freezer, like everything else I grow around here. If you are growing it to dry, you can pick it any time before it flowers. Also you can pick what you need to go with tomatoes, top pizza. etc.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 8:39AM
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my basil hasnt started to flower yet. do you snip all the leaves off at once or do just a few at a time? right now i think im going to put it in my salsa.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 1:09PM
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The best time to pick is before it flowers. You can delay flowering by cutting off the flower buds, but the plant will get determined and the leaves will gradually get bitter anyway. The leaves get bitter after it flowers, though some people continue to eat it anyway.

When basil is small, you should snip off the central rosette of leaves every couple of weeks to encourage it to branch and bush out.

You can harvest a few leaves at a time or strip them all off at once. If you strip them all off, there's a chance the plant will die, but it might also come back. I stripped all of mine last week and made a big batch of pesto.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 2:59PM
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My basil hasnt started to flower yet so im good there. Today I went out to my garden to pick some leaves off of it and I only picked 4 leaves off of it.

I didnt know what I was supposed to do so I just left it alone so it could grow how it wanted to and its pretty bushy. I didnt pick any leaves and its still bushy.

Did your plant survive or did it die when you picked all the leaves off?


    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 3:14PM
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They look fine. They're kind of stick-like because they're mostly just stems now, but the stems are green and where there's a few leaves I missed, those are green and healthy looking and not wilted. I had a dozen plants that were big enough to pick. One of them looks like the top inch of stem will die back.

I expect they will regrow leaves. At least that's what I've read. Then I'll strip them again and make another batch of pesto, assuming the leaves that regrow aren't bitter. I'm not a fan of bitter basil.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 3:30PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You can snip off the stems with the leaves intact as long as you don't cut off more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. Cutting closer to the top will give you bushier plants. Cutting earlier in their growth while they still are fairly short will give you taller plants.

Some people just strip off the leaves, which is fine if you want to go that route. I don't like the look of bare stems and find I get better and faster regrowth if I snip stems and all.

Some people like to let them flower because they use the flowers for garnishes or for herbal swags, but I don't. I think letting them flowers causes the bitterness in the leaves.

After you cut the stems and bring them indoors, if you choose to harvest that way, you can strip the leaves off immediately and use them fresh, or let the leaves remain on the stems and dry. Then you can crumble the leaves and store them in an airtight container for dried basil.

I grow ten or twelve kinds of basil some years and only 3 or 4 other years. If I get tired of harvesting and drying all the basil, I just let the plants flower and go to seed in the garden. The tiny beneficial insects love the flowers, and the seeds give me numerous volunteer plants the following spring.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 4:02PM
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Thank you so much for your help! Its really gonna help me now and in the future!

Thank you lots,

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 5:47PM
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