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Jul 18, 2012 10:13 AM

Is there a "best way" to harvest basil?

My basil is doing beautifully this year. I've got about 6-7 plants in containers on my deck. When I go out to snip some, I never know whether it's better to snip fewer stems at a point further down, or more stems just from the tops of the plants. I'm trying to stop them from flowering these days, so I'm tempted to snip from the tops, but my long-term goal is to keep my plants prolific until tomato season is over. Any advice?

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  1. I was waiting to see what others said, but I'll go ahead and put my 2 cents in. The main thing is to keep the blooms from forming and as long as you're diligent with that, you should be okay. Isn't fresh basil a wonderful thing?

    1. I agree; just keep if from blooming.

      1. Eventually the plant will bloom. I have basil growing in just one small pot, wasn't using it regularly so it became leggy and flowered. I just ignored it, though I did keep it well watered. Once the stems became woody I figured it was a lost cause and cut off all but the bottom three inches or so of woody stem and planned on replacing that with a new plant. Much to my surprise within a few weeks these seemingly dead woody stems have sprouted lots of new growth. So depending in your climate, even when your basil seems spent, you may be able to get a whole new robust plant.

        3 Replies
          1. re: janniecooks

            Yeah...the plant becoming woody is not necessarily a sign that it's gone. I've seen fairly woody basil plants continually resprout and be good for sustained harvesting, and I've also seen basil plants with tender stems flower and either die down or go unpleasantly bitter.

            1. re: cazort

              I've been growing basil either in my garden or in containers since....well never mind that. In all that time it never occurred to me that new growth might sprout from apparently dried up dead stems - that's what the woody stems looked like to me. And the woody stems usually occurred at the end of summer, when I would clean them up along with the rest of the garden detritus. I learned something new by being lazy and not replacing what I thought was a spent plant. Such a pleasant surprise.

          2. I read somewhere that you should snip towards the top, just above a set of leaves as that promotes more leaf growth. I've been doing that for the past month and have noticed my basil is growing fuller now.

            2 Replies
            1. re: boogiebaby

              +1. I also try to use larger leaves that block lower branches first when I just need a few leaves for a salad.

              1. re: Crockett67

                The larger leaves, grown in low light, can also be more tender. Although basil tends to be a light-loving plant and cannot take as much shade as many herbs, I find that if the leaves are too tough, growing it in a slightly shadier location increases the size of the leaves and makes them thinner and more tender.

            2. When the first few leaves are ready to take I'm out on the deck with a pair of fine scissors cutting my leaves off just so. By this time of year I'm more in the "whack it off" mode with pruning shears.