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Harvesting basil from your garden can be a fun project and will give you a great herb that can be used for so many dishes.
Wikipedia defines Basil as an annual, or sometimes perennial, herb used for its leaves. Depending on the variety, plants can reach heights of between 30 and 150 cm (1 and 5 ft). Its leaves are richly green and ovate, but otherwise, come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes depending on the cultivar. Leaf sizes range from 3 to 11 cm (1 to 4+1⁄2 in) long, and between 1 and 6 cm (1⁄2 and 2+1⁄2 in) wide. Basil grows a thick, central taproot. Its flowers are small and white and grow from a central inflorescence that emerges from the central stem atop the plant.
When is Basil ready to Harvest?
Once the basil is planted in the ground in your area in late spring you only need about 60-90 days of full sun. Ideally, you should start clipping your basil when it reaches between 6 & 8 inches high. Sharp kitchen scissors like any of these below will cut the leaves off with a clear cut.
Start by snipping the leaves close to the stem to encourage the basil to continue to grow. By removing these leaves your plant will continue to produce leaves that you can continue to snip through most of the summer. If your plant has started to flower these small blooms can easily be pinched off, this will also encourage growth and bushy plants.
Snipping your basil in the early morning or later in the evening when it is cool is the best time. Be sure to have a large bowl ready as it fills up your bowl quickly.
As you can see I used a large Tupperware bowl for my basil but any type can be used! Here are a few nice ones!
Once you get your basil snipped and washed, just lay it on a paper towel to dry. Depending on how you choose to harvest your basil the following steps can be followed.
Freezing your Basil
This is probably the quickest way to harvest your basil. Once it is washed and cut you can drop the leaves in a pot of boiling water to blanch it. Blanching is basically a step that preserves the nutritional value & texture of what you are going to freeze. Remove basil after about 10-15 seconds dropping the leaves into ice water. Place on a paper towel to dry. Once dry you can place your basil in small freezer bags for use later.
Here is a post I wrote last summer that talks about blanching sweet corn.
Drying your Basil
Drying is a great way to preserve your basil. If you have a food dehydrator or food dryer it makes the process pretty quick. I have a food dryer that has several trays. Place washed basil leaves on each tray. Once all your trays are filled just plug it in and wait!! I dried basil this past weekend and it took about 4 hours. Once dried I removed it from the trays.
I was then able to just rub back and forth and place it in small storage bags; the basil crumbled similar to the dried basil you can buy in stores. Food Dehydrators are one of those gadgets or appliances that might not seem necessary but are very handy if you have them.