Get The Most Out of Your Basil from Backyard Eats
When It’s Ready
- When the plant is at least 6-8″ tall
- When the plant has a few sets of green, unfurled leaves
- When the plant “bolts” (begins to flower) the leaves turn bitter
- Mid-late May to first frost
- Clip off the top portion of the main stem using a sharp pair of scissors
- You may also pick a few individual leaves at a time
- Basil requires constant pruning to assist growth and prevent flowering. Basil grows on clusters off a main stem. At the bottom of the main stem, there will generally be a set of smaller leaves. With pruners, trim back the main stem to the smaller leaves to stimulate growth and branching. Pinch off any flower tops and discard.
- Harvesting the top stem (rather than picking leaves) encourages more branching and fullness so you can enjoy fresh basil all season long!
Basil is a fragrant herb with a sweet, slightly peppery taste and a subtle anise-like aroma. It is commonly used in Italian, Thai, and Mediterranean cuisines, and is often used in dishes containing tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. Basil is typically used fresh, although it can also be dried for later use. It is a versatile herb that can be used in a variety of dishes, including pasta sauces, pizzas, soups, salads, and marinades. It pairs well with other herbs such as oregano and thyme.
Varieties of Basil:
Store as a whole branch with leaves, rooted in room-temperature water, for 3-10 days. Change water daily.
Store as whole leaves in an airtight container the refrigerator. Chopped leaves will bruise and discolor readily.
Cooking With Basil
- Pesto: Blend fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil to create a flavorful pesto sauce. Use it as a pasta sauce, spread it on bread, or use it as a marinade or topping for grilled meats.
- Caprese Salad: Combine sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and enjoy a classic and refreshing Caprese salad.
- Tomato Sauce: Add fresh basil leaves to homemade tomato sauce for an aromatic and herby flavor. Simmer the sauce to allow the basil to infuse and enhance the taste of your pasta dishes.
- Infused Oil: Create basil-infused oil by gently heating olive oil with fresh basil leaves. Once cooled, strain the oil and use it as a flavorful drizzle for salads, grilled vegetables, or roasted meats.
- Pizza Topping: Sprinkle torn or chopped basil leaves over your favorite pizza just before serving. The heat of the pizza will release the basil’s fragrance, adding a delightful freshness to each bite.