How to Harvest Basil without killing the plant -3 Easy Steps

Thinking about growing basil at home? We hear you! Basil is a widely popular herb that tastes fantastic in many dishes. The reason why today, we’ll be telling you everything you need to know about how to harvest basil without killing the plant.

If you planted basil in your garden and everything has gone smoothly so far, harvesting is in your near future. Soon you’ll have lots of fresh basil enticing you with its minty aroma, but first, you must learn how to harvest basil properly.

Though it may sound like a complex task, harvesting basil is a quick and simple process. That said, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to make sure you do a good job. Keep reading and discover essential steps to harvest basil without killing the plant.

How to Harvest Basil without killing the plant

  1. Using sharp scissors or secateurs, pick off the tips of each stem – just above a pair of leaves, new shoots will grow from each stem creating a fuller plant.
  2. Pinch off any flowers as they start to grow to help encourage your basil plant to grow more leaves.
  3. Pick a few leaves off each plant, rather than cutting off a whole stem. While you’re picking, periodically pinch off the branch tips to encourage the plant to fill out.

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Harvesting large amounts of basil

  1. It would help if you harvested the stems from the top down.
  2. Continue to prune until you have cut all the long leggy stems back. Always leave at least one leaf pair at the bottom of a stem when harvesting, allowing the stem to keep growing after harvesting.

How to plant and grow basil?

  • If you’re going to plant basil outside, get a head start by planting and sprouting your seeds one or two months before the last frost.
  • Please make sure they are in well-drained soil.
  • Place them where they will receive lots of sunlight each day (at least six hours). Basil also likes staying warm (above 50°F).
  • Water often.
  • Fertilize monthly, especially if you’re growing your basil indoors.

How do you harvest basil so it keeps growing?

  • Begin harvesting basil shortly after the seed sprouts and the second set of leaves appear. From then until the first flower buds form, they will grow lush, tender foliage. Harvest leaves a few at a time at first. Later, clip the stems at the first or second branch intersection below the tips of the branches.
  • Gradually begin to remove 10 to 15 percent of the total foliage each time you harvest. It is important to begin harvesting early to train the plant to grow full and bushy.
  • Harvesting young leaves also help to delay maturity. The tender leaves you harvest at this time are excellent in Caprese salads or added to soups and pasta after cooking.

How do you pick basil off the plant?

Pick a few leaves off each plant, rather than cutting off a whole stem. While you’re picking, periodically pinch off the branch tips to encourage the plant to fill out.
Also, remove any flower buds and discard or use them as a garnish.

Will basil regrow after cutting?

When you clip basil stems back into a fresh set of leaves, you force those leaves to grow, doubling the basil produced on that stem. And as those stems grow, you can pinch them back and double their production – it’s exponential! To remove flowers. Eventually, most basil plants produce flowers.

Can you wait too long to harvest basil?

Some people recommend waiting until the plant is 12″ tall, but if you have a bushy plant instead of a leggy one, that can lead you to wait too long to harvest. In fact, pinching off the top of your basil when it’s 6-8 inches tall will make it a nice, bushy plant.

How to preserve basil?

Preserve basil by freezing

To freeze the leaves, coarse-grind them in a food processor with a drizzle of olive oil. Then pack it into an ice cube tray. Remove the frozen basil cubes and store them in a plastic bag for up to six months.

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Preserve basil by dehydrating

Dry basil either in a food dehydrator or by simply hanging the washed stems. Hang them in a place with good air circulation, out of direct sunlight. Wrap them in paper to keep them clean. Crush the dried basil and store it in a glass jar.


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Additional Tips on How to Harvest Basil without killing the plant

  • Harvesting basil leaves should occur 50 to 60 days after planting. The best time for harvesting is in the early morning hours.
  • It’s best to harvest leaves from the top of the plant, which will lead to bushier, fuller growth.
  • If you harvest the bottom leaves, the plant will grow lanky and thin, which might not be as healthy or productive.
  • You can also cut leaves with a small pair of scissors. Be very careful not to cut the stem while doing so.
  • When you cut just above the node, the plant will divide in two to continue growing in a bushier, fuller form.
  • If you have harvested enough basil leaves and are ready to see your plant go, allow it to flower and enjoy its beauty.
  • Basil flowers are edible, but their flavor is stronger than basil leaves, and their seed pods are coarse and gritty.

How To Harvest Basil without Killing the Plant Tutorial Video

Would you also be interested in learning how to harvest Oregano? It’s easier than you think.

Choose Your Next Harvesting Project:

Photo of author
Joe Farmer, The harvesting guy is all about fresh produce and enjoying the harvest all year round. He's got tips and tricks for backyard harvesting and is always up for sharing his love of homegrown food. When he's not in the garden, you can find him out on the hiking trail or cooking up something delicious in the kitchen.
Photo of author
Joe Farmer, The harvesting guy is all about fresh produce and enjoying the harvest all year round. He's got tips and tricks for backyard harvesting and is always up for sharing his love of homegrown food. When he's not in the garden, you can find him out on the hiking trail or cooking up something delicious in the kitchen.