How to Harvest and Use Fresh Basil from Your Garden-Let’s Find Out!

Basil happens to be one of the most priced ingredients in kitchens around the world. The fragrance of this her blends in with thyme and rosemary to add a special flair to fish, cheese, soup, eggs, beef, barbecue, and many other dishes.

It’s also a major ingredient in pesto prepared with Parmesan cheese and pine nuts.

In this post, we shall be looking at how to harvest and use basil. Read on to discover numerous interesting facts about basil.

What is basil?

Basil is a tender culinary herb that belongs to the family of mints. Although the plant is native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Africa, it has risen into one of the favorite additions to meals among people all over the US and other parts of the world.

Depending on the specific species of the plant, the leaves might taste somehow like anise with a spicy, sweet aroma.

Benefits of Taking Basil

how to use fresh basil

Some of you might be wondering why you need to have basil in your dishes. Well, basil is known to be one of the healthiest herbs.

We recommend taking it when its fresh, because then, it has a strong, pleasant aroma and its nutrients are still potent.

Here are some of the nutrients that basil offers you:

  • Vitamin K – facilitates blood clotting so that when you have a cut, you don’t lose too much blood. By taking just 2 tablespoons of basil juice, you already have around 30% of the daily recommended value. 
  • Vitamin A – protects your epithelial cells, that is, the cells lining your body organs, including your blood vessels and your gut. It also prevents cell damage from free radicals, thus protecting you against heart attack, stroke, and other dangerous conditions.
  • Iron – important in the manufacture of red blood cells
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    Calcium – vital for healthy bones

Other nutrients that you get from basil include:

  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C

And you know something really cool? Basil has antibacterial properties. That means if you’re suffering from any bacterial infections or if you have a wound or some burns, basil will be very helpful; it will accelerate the healing process.

It also contains flavonoids. These elements protect your DNA and keep your body cells intact. They also slow down aging. Some of the flavonoids that you can get from this herb are: cineole, linalool, myrcene, and eugenol.

These flavonoids are able to restrict the development of harmful bacteria like staphylococcus and E. coli in your body.

Some bacteria strains that have been found to be resistant to antibiotic meds have been inhibited by extracts from basil.

Again, eugenol, one of the flavonoids in basil, has been showed to block COX, a harmful enzyme. This effect sets basil an anti-inflammatory agent, and in fact, the herb can provide you with relief from inflammatory illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis.

How to Harvest Basil

If you let your basil grow too big, it will overshadow the other plants on your garden, and they won’t grow very healthy. That’s why it’s important to harvest the basil from time to time.

But you might fail to harvest it either because you don’t know how to go about it or you don’t know how to preserve the basil leaves.

In this part, we will make everything clear to you by showing you how to harvest basil and preserve it when you’re not using it. After that, we will show you how to use basil.

Steps to Harvesting Basil

Gather the tools/supplies

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    Sharp scissors or gardening snips – for pruning
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    Paper towels – for drying
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    Strings – for drying
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    Mesh fabric – for drying

Prune

Harvesting and pruning are basically the same thing. So, when pruning, first identify the 2 biggest leaves on the stem. Beneath these, there should be some nodes or another set of smaller leaves.

You should cut the stem at about a quarter to a half-inch above these nodes or smaller set of leaves.

After doing this, you ought to trim any other leaves on the plant that look too big. But, avoid the leaves that are lower on the stem.

Air dry

One of the best ways of drying basil is tying the stems together into bunches using a twist tie or a string, and hanging the bunches in a well-ventilated space away from direct sunlight.

The basil will need a few days to dry, and then it will be ready for storage.

If you can lay your hands on binder clips, they will help prevent the stems from falling out.

Drying in a microwave oven

This step is for those who don’t want to depend on nature to dry the leaves. So, if you found the drying method we’ve described above inconvenient to you, then this one might help. Lay the leaves on a paper towel, and be sure to space them out a bit.

Then, put them in the oven for short intervals of 15 to 25 seconds till they feel dry. Feel free to use a cookie sheet in place of the paper towel and don’t forget to set your microwave oven to low settings.

Once the leaves are dry, you can crumble them and store them in airtight jars for later use.

Freeze

Freezing helps preserve the basil leaves for later use. Chop up the leaves, put them in a bowl, add some olive oil, and mix them up. Then, wrap up little molds of the mixture and freeze them.

How to Use Basil

In this part, we shall train you on using basil, in other words, enjoying it in your meals.

So, the first step is removing the leaves from the plant’s stems. Be sure to dump the spotted leaves and the dead ones. Then, the leaves properly with clean water and set them on a tray so they can dry. You could also use a towel to pat them dry.

There are so many ways of using basil that we can’t list them all here today but try the following:

Chop up fresh basil leaves and add them to:

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    Pasta
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    Salad and dressings
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    Sandwiches and wraps
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    Soup scrambled eggs
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    Bread dough
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    Marinades
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    Sauces

Fresh basil tea:

Boil a cup of water and pour into another cup containing 2 tablespoons of fresh basil (chopped). Stir for a minute or two then add some raw honey.

We recommend adding Manuka honey for added health benefits and extra flavor. Then, serve. Ideally, one cup of water needs 2 tablespoons of basil.

If you’re having digestive issues, basil tea with Manuka honey is the perfect solution. Try it every morning and let us know how it goes after a few weeks.

Ever heard of Tulsi? Tulsi is basil variety that is considered sacred in India, probably due to its unique healing properties. It’s mostly used a stress reliever and it’s also known to promote good health in general.

Apart from eating or drinking basil, there’s another interesting way in which you can use it. We call it basil fragrance.

Are your home and kitchen cleaning products displeasing you in regards to their smell? Or do they just lack scent? Mix them up with some dried basil leaves to give them a fresh, clean fragrance.

How to Preserve Basil

Maybe you don’t want to use the basil you just harvested immediately. You have two options. You can either freeze it or dry it.

Method 1: Freezing basil

Pack the fresh basil leaves in airtight containers or plastic bags and keep them in the refrigerator. You could also freeze them in ice cubes.

Method 2: Drying basil

Spread the leaves on a tray, in a well-ventilated room, and of course, not in direct sunlight. After around one week, the leaves will be dry and ready for storing in airtight jars.

Although it’s not the main topic of the day, we thought you should know how to grow basil effectively, so we shall give you a few quick tips on that.

But before that, someone might ask – why should I grow basil? Well, here’s the reason:

Basil has a spicy, clove-scent flavor that comes across as a perfect natural addition to numerous cuisines.

Imagine being able to clip fresh basil leaves right from your backyard and run back to the kitchen to give whatever you are preparing some extra flavor.

With just one basil plant that is properly pruned, you have around half a cup of basil every week. Even if you don’t have much space, you can still grow basil.

All you need to do is fill a few containers with good soil and grow your plants there. You can even grow them indoors, as long as there’s some access to sunlight.

How to Grow Basil

Location:  

A container garden is ideal. Basil flourishes in properly-drained soil where there’s access to sunshine. You can also grow it in the garden, alongside some tomatoes.

Time:  

Basil seeds germinate relatively fast. The best time to plant the seeds is around a month after the last frost. Remember, basil is very sensitive to cold weather, so it’s better to grow the plants in spring and summer.

In case you intend to transplant basil seedlings, ensure the ground temperatures are not less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Basil cuttings root easily when they’re put in water; they will appear within a week. After the roots have formed, transplant the basil to the containers or the garden.

Cultivating Basil

The soil:

This needs to be properly drained, moist, and with a pH of around 7(neutral). Before planting, you may add a little compost to the soil but don’t add too much of it, because if you do that, the intensity of the basil’s flavor might be lost.

The sun:

The plants will thrive in a warm environment that’s getting at least 6 hours of sunshine daily. Of course, you can grow basil in a place that receives less hours of sunshine, only that these plants will not be as prolific as those grown in an area that receives 6 hours or more.

Water:

Water the plants when you notice the soil is going dry. Pour the water at the base of the plants and not over the leaves.

Spacing:

Your plants will grow to a height of between 12 and 24 inches, depending on their specific variety. Therefore, plant them between 12 and 18 inches apart from each other. Got a limited space? Then consider growing globe basil, as it tends to take up only a little space.

Mixed irrigation:

You can grow basil alongside veggies and other herbs that require similar care. That includes tomatoes, lettuce, pepper, oregano, and parsley, and you might even hear some folks saying tomatoes gain a better taste when grown with basil.  

Fun Facts about Basil:

  • Basil deters mosquito – I keep some basil pots in my back porch to ward off these little monsters. Try it!
  • Basil is royal – the word basil was developed from the Greek word ‘basilikohn’, which means royal. When served with food, basil reflects a flair of friendship, nobility, hospitality, and honor.

Final Word

Basil is a favorite among food lovers around the world, because of its potent nice flavor, and because it blends in with many cuisines. You can add it to virtually anything, from sandwiches to soups and pasta. Remember, it contains lots of medical benefits including easing stomach upsets and digestion-related issues.

Apart from that, it adds a fresh scent to your home cleaning solutions and protects you from mosquito. So, why not start growing basil today? Don’t forget to harvest and use it properly.

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