If you’re new to the world of growing basil, you may tend to feel like you’re kind of injuring your plant a little each time you harvest a few amazingly aromatic leaves from it. You may only decide to harvest sparingly and try to let your plant grow as big, tall, and strong as possible for as long as possible, only to find that it eventually shoots off flowers and dies, or just fizzles out and shrivels up. What’s up with that?
Well, the truth is, that basil plants actually do better the more that you harvest their leaves. So trimming and pinching off a few, or many, leaves here and there will only reward you with more and more, and will keep your plant healthy and thriving as well.
Don’t just go plucking the leaves willy-nilly though! Let me show you just how to do your little basil harvest so you get the best results!
OK, so start off with a healthy, bushy basil plant that really looks like it’s just dying to be eaten.
Yum yum yum! I just can’t get enough fresh basil in my life, especially during the summer months! I was in the mood for that fresh garden flavor the other day, but unfortunately our garden is nowhere near ready for harvesting, so I grabbed this little plant from the produce section of my grocery store. It’s been quite happy next to my kitchen window!
The key with basil plants is that you want to encourage them to be low and bushy rather than tall and spindly, but they have a tendency to get tall and spindly if you just leave them to grow without any kind of pruning or harvesting.
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You can see my plant had a few shoots that were growing straight up and getting pretty skinny and lacking in the leaf department.
When you see your plant looking like this, you want to start harvesting from the top down, rather than just plucking the biggest leaves from around the perimeter of the plant. Just go ahead and harvest a whole basil branch at a time, stem and all! Just make sure you leave a couple of inches of steam at the bottom of the plant and always snip the stem about a 1/4 inch above a node, which is the place where a set of leaves or stems meet up with the main stem.
Once you’ve done all your stem-snipping, go ahead and pinch off any really big leaves that are remaining on the plant, those are ready to eat too!
Here’s how my plant looked after I was done harvesting.
You can see that a good 2/3 of the bulk of the plant is gone, but there are still plenty of little baby leaves left to grow. Give your plant a good drink of water at this point and let it get back to growing!
It’s only been a few days since my harvest, but already I can see the new leaves growing quite a bit and really enjoying all the extra energy they have available to them now that all of the bigger leaves are gone. Within a couple of weeks, I’ll be ready for another big basil harvest!
So that’s all it takes to be able to enjoy fresh basil off of a single plant all year long!
Do you have any clever basil-growing tips that I need to know about before we really get deep into the summertime basil season?
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