Basil Harvest Guide – How To Harvest Basil Herb Plants

Picking and Harvesting Basil Herbs
pick basil
(Image credit: cdelacy)

Basil is known as the “King of Herbs” in part due to its popularity but also as a result of its name (basilicum), derived from the Greek word ‘basileus,’ meaning “king.” Since it pairs so well with a variety of cuisines, it is a must have in the herb garden, but how do you know when to pick basil? When exactly is basil harvest time? If you’re interested in learning how to harvest basil, read on for more information about picking and harvesting basil herbs.

When to Pick Basil

Harvesting of basil can begin as soon as the plant has at least six sets of leaves. Thereafter, harvest basil as often as needed. Pick basil in the morning when the essential oils are at their peak freshness.

How to Harvest Basil

To harvest a small amount of basil, just remove a few leaves for use. Cut back whole stem for use in larger harvests. Cutting back entire stems will result in a bushier plant that produces more leaves too.

Harvest from the top down. If cutting back entire stems, cut back to a third of the plant’s height, cutting above a leaf pair. If cutting the plant back by a third, wait a few weeks to harvest again. If you have too much to use fresh, you can dry basil leaves to store for later.

If for some reason you have not been regularly picking your basil, be sure to pinch back the plant at least every six weeks to encourage bushy growth. Also, pinch back any blooms to facilitate foliage growth.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.