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Basil is one of the most commonly used kitchen herbs and plays an important role in Mediterranean cuisine. Today, pots of basil can be found in almost every supermarket, or you can grow the herb yourself from seeds. Harvesting is often a tightrope act for many people, as they don't know whether to pluck or prune the plant to allow it to regrow vigorously.

harvest time

Basil, like many other herbs, can be harvested for much of the year. If the optimal site conditions prevail, it thrives from April to around October and then dies. If kept outdoors, it will stop growing below 12°C. You can harvest Ocimum basilicum over the entire period, as the herb sprout extremely vigorously. You just have to make sure that the kitchen herb also dies when it blooms. For this reason, regular harvesting is important to maintain the vitality of the plant, so that it does not die prematurely, as flowering is the end of the life cycle.

Tip: Certain varieties of some basil species are perennial and can even survive in winter quarters. You can continue to harvest the varieties over the winter without any problems, because they continue to sprout and could also form flowers.

Harvest basil continuously

Pluck or cut?

In order for the basil to grow back healthily, it is necessary to harvest it regularly. However, you should not just do this haphazardly, because uncoordinated removal of the leaves in too small quantities has a negative effect on vitality. Ocimum basilicum can handle more than most people think and prefers a thorough harvest where even large amounts can be removed. The question often arises as to whether plucking or cutting is better for the plant. To do this, the individual methods must be compared directly with one another.

Pluck the basil

Picking a few basil leaves is the typical practice for many people who want to enjoy the pleasure of the characteristic scent. However, despite the common assumption, plucking is not necessarily the best way to harvest basil. This is because the plant doesn't like it when leaves are simply plucked off, leading to a possible chain reaction of events.

  • occasional plucking does not prevent flowering
  • After plucking, the basil invests even more energy in the formation of flowers and seeds
  • in addition, the stems can be damaged if simply plucked off in one place

As you can see, leaf plucking can quickly lead to problems that negatively affect the health of the plant. That's mainly because many people don't do plucking properly, even though it's not necessarily good for regrowth compared to pruning. If you cut off the leaves, you can be much more precise and even get the shape of the basil. Plucking off should only be done with individual leaves for in between. The darkest leaves should be used for this, as they contain the most aroma and consume the most energy.

Basil is a popular culinary herb

Tip: Alternatively, at the end of the growing season, you can pluck all the basil down to the ground in one go. Since the classic kitchen basil is only an annual plant, you can simply dispose of the pot and use the remaining basil to make a pesto or freeze it.

Cut basil

In order for your Ocimum basilicum to grow back really well, you should trim it with scissors. This not only makes the work easier, but is the more effective option for allowing the plant to regrow well. In addition, the cut has the advantage that you can harvest larger quantities within a short time, even if you have several basil bushes available. Proceed as described below.

1st step

  • be sure to select the early morning hours for harvesting, preferably after watering
  • at this time, the leaves have the most aromas, which will definitely be reflected in the taste

2nd step

  • now take a pair of scissors, which should be sharp and clean
  • the shape of the scissors doesn't matter, because healthy basil plants can be cut easily and without any effort

3rd step

  • now cut off whole shoot tips
  • you select these at a length of five to seven centimetres
  • this prevents flowering and the Ocimum basilicum begins to sprout more vigorously to catch up with the lost plant material

4th step

  • the cut should be made just above a pair of leaves
  • This creates branches through which further shoots can be formed
  • the more branches the herb has, the stronger it can sprout, which is good for vitality

5th step

  • if branches of basil are cut off completely, you must leave at least one pair of eyes
  • this allows the herb to recover and sprout again

6th step

  • feel free to be generous with the cut
  • alternatively, you can also use these steps to pluck the shoots if your nails are sharp enough and the shoots are still quite young
  • otherwise, use scissors to avoid accidentally damaging the plant
Basil in the pot

With this method you ensure that your Ocimum basilicum can grow back sufficiently without flowering or dying due to incorrect plucking or pruning. Also make sure that the herb starts preparing the flowers about eight weeks after sowing. You should therefore carry out the first harvest during this time.

Tip: If you want to try a very special aroma, you should let one of your basil plants flower and use it afterwards. These have a pleasantly tart taste that goes well in salads and soups, and the flowers also have a decorative effect.

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