When to harvest: Basil is ready for harvest 50 to 60 days after planting. Pinch out leaves as you need them; regular harvest will keep plants growing strong and prevent flowering When a branch has 6 to 8 leaves, harvest all but the first set of leaves. This will prompt new growth.
Begin harvesting basil shortly after the seed sprouts and the second set of leaves appear. From then until the first flower buds form it will grow lush, tender foliage. Harvest leaves a few at a time at first. Later, simply clip the stems at the first or second branch intersection below the tips of the branches.
For mint and basil, always pick from the top. That will remove the growth/bud ends and encourage bushy growth. If you just want a few leaves, just pinch off the first two pairs of leaves.
If you ‘ve been growing basil plants, you may already know that it’s a good idea to prune the flowers off of the plants as soon as they appear. Leaving the flowers on slows the production of leaves, and many gardeners find that it also reduces the quality or flavor of the leaves.
Hand’s down the best way to store basil in to put the bunch in a glass or jar filled with water, just like flowers. Trim the cut ends, put the bunch in a glass, jar, or vase of water that will fit in the fridge, and cover the whole thing, or at least the basil leaves, with a plastic bag.
Even after a major cutting back, the herb will be ready for pruning again in a few weeks. Pinching or cutting back basil plants regularly encourages full, bushy plants.
When the leaves are completely dry, place them on a cookie sheet, again single layer and place in the freezer for about two hours. Once they are frozen, place the leaves in a freezer safe container or bag. Careful not to over pack them or they will lose their shape.
Basil plants need one inch of water every week. Watering your plants deeply once a week helps your roots grow deeply while keeping the soil moist. If you’re growing basil in containers, plan to water more than once a week because the soil dries out faster.
ANSWER: Yes, you can freeze fresh basil leaves, but they just need a little help. Basil is a particularly delicate herb because it hates the cold and darkens when cut. Keep in mind any fresh herbs that you freeze will not be entirely the same as fresh.
Store the basil leaves like salad greens. Pick, wash, and dry the leaves, then store in the fridge wrapped in a dry paper towel and sealed in a plastic bag. Clean, dry, ready to roll. This baggie will be the basil’s home for the next several days.
Wash the leaves and dry them with a paper towel. Then gather them in bunches and wrap the stems with a twist tie. Hang them upside down for a week or two and then break the leaves off the stems into an airtight container and you will have dried basil for the winter. Basil lasts this way for about a year.
Prune regularly for the best flavor. About every four weeks, prune basil back to just above the bottom two sets of leaves. If the plant is allowed to flower, it will lose flavor.