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how do i harvest basil?

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This year I planted this huge pot of basil and it is going crazy. I was just going around the pot picking the leaves as they got large. Not sure if I should start topping it now or what. Any suggestions?

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  1. Basil is definately a plant that *needs* topping off. Othetwise it will just shoot straight up and bolt (flower and go to seed). Not sure how much you have let it grow up, so start with pinching back the tallest 1/4 of the stems, to about half way. They will just strat to form branching from that point and grow more. Then, after you re sure the plant is doing OK, harvest by pinching off stems that are going fast. Basil freezes well, if you chop/slice it and freeze it with some water in the Ice cube tray. Pop them out and store fro fresh basil goodness all winter.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Quine

      Better yet, make tons of pesto, freeze in ice cube trays and enjoy a tasty fresh pasta treat all year long.

      I would love a suggestion on how to avoid the ice crystals that form when in my freezer... I suppose I should vacuum pack my pesto... hmm

      1. re: babaoriley7

        I put my pesto in quart-sized freezer bags, which I put inside aluminum foil and then into a gallon-sized bag. I don't get ice crystals and I've had bags in the freezer for up to 9-10 months before using them. Having pasta w/pesto and a nice glass of wine while watching the snow pile up on the lawn in the middle of February is one of the really good things about the ability to freeze pesto. I grow it in large pots on the patio, along with tomatoes, parsley, rosemary, and other herbs.

        1. re: babaoriley7

          Make pre-pesto, not pesto! This was the best advice I ever got. From an 80+ Italian woman who still made Sunday dinner for the huge extended family every Sunday.

          Grind the basil with olive oil and freeze that in small containers or ziplocks. It never freezes very hard.
          When you want pesto in the dead of winter, finely mince garlic, add the basil/olive oil, and then work in the cheese, butter, pine nuts.
          The basil retains its bright green color and summer aroma this way and the other flavors are fresh and clear. The pesto tastes as bright as August.
          I have never frozen pesto again since I learned this trick.

          You can even use the basil/oil to spoon on other things in winter. It's good addition to fish, salads, pasta, etc. The flavor and color stay amazingly good.

          1. re: MakingSense

            I gotta try this! An 80+ Italian woman can't be wrong about this.

      2. Don't pinch off individual leaves. Since your basil is a bit out of control, be severe. Use scissors or a knife and cut off most of a stalk, leaving just one or two pairs of leaves. That stalk will then split into two stalks just above the top set of leaves. Even if you don't need the basil for cooking, keep it topped off so it doesn't bolt too soon, as Quine notes. Freeze or give the extra to friends and relatives.

        1. Put it outside in my backyard and you won't have to worry - the rabbits will harvest before you ever get the chance.