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Hobby gardeners and cooks look forward to fresh basil in the garden or on the windowsill. However, the plant begins to flower after just a few weeks. Many are then unsure whether they can continue to enjoy the herbs. The rumor that flowering basil is poisonous is still very persistent. This post explains what's really going on.


Basil is one of the most popular kitchen herbs. No wonder, after all it is healthy and versatile. There are also different types and varieties to choose from. But what some people who have a basil plant in their home are wondering: are the leaves still edible after flowering, which begins as early as July? And what about the flowers - can they be eaten and/or used in other ways? The guide goes into detail about these and some other interesting points about flowering basil.


Are the leaves of a flowering basil still edible?

Yes, the leaves of a flowering basil are not poisonous or otherwise harmful in any way and are safe to eat with them. But, through flowering, the leaves lose a large part of their characteristic aroma. As a result, they smell and taste much less intense. The ultimate goal of the plant, which is often referred to as king herb, is propagation. She invests the majority of her energy for this, which is at the expense of the unique aroma.

In detail, with the flowers, the basil plant attracts busy insects that act as pollinators. Seeds can only develop from pollinated flowers. After sowing the following year, these seeds will turn into new basil plants.

In short:

  • Basil does not become poisonous when flowering
  • Leaves are still edible without any problems
  • but lose their aroma and taste
  • nevertheless beginnings of the typical taste
  • Leaves become more or less bitter - when cooking, the bitterness of the leaves disappears, which is why the green elements of a flowering plant can still be used very well for sauces and hot dishes - the bitter substances are dissolved by the heat supplied - this is how the natural aroma of the basil occurs clearer again


Once flowering has started, it no longer makes sense to cut down the plant. Then it's better to just let them bloom. However, flowering can be prevented or delayed beforehand in order to preserve the full aroma of the leaves for longer. A timely and correct cut is essential for this.

Notice: Flowering basil stops growing and gradually dies. For this reason alone, it is worth consistently counteracting the (premature) flowering. Many experienced herbalists take advantage of the opportunity that is available for this. Preventing/delaying the flowering of the basil - this is how it works.

Here is an overview of the crucial measure:

  • Harvest basil continuously
  • not just pluck individual leaves
  • Instead, shoots that are 5 cm long
  • but at least 2 eyes remain

Notice: Leafless shoots die and cannot be saved. That is why it is so important to cut off longer pieces of shoots and not just pluck off individual leaves.

Whenever the first buds appear, you should devote yourself to harvesting. Cut off shoots about five centimeters long at the tips. This also promotes further branching and a bushy habit of the plant. However, at least two eyes must always be attached to each shoot.

Tip: What you don't use fresh in the kitchen can be frozen - so that the herbs last longer. Drying is not very suitable for the royal herb.

In short:

  • If you cut the branches regularly and in good time according to the scheme described, the delicious aroma of the basil will be preserved for much longer

utilize flowers

Can basil blossoms be used?

Yes, in principle you can even eat the flowers of the basil. However, they taste quite bitter. For this reason, they are mainly used as decorative elements for salads or to garnish warm dishes.

Tip: The flowers can be used to make delicious basil blossom vinegar. All you need to do is soak around 80 flowers in 200 milliliters of white wine vinegar. Add 15 whole leaves of the plant and some peppercorns. Four weeks later, strain the finished vinegar and use it for spicy dishes as you like.

It is also conceivable to enjoy flowering basil with your own eyes. As a labiate, it makes a lot of things from a purely visual point of view. Depending on the variety, the plant forms white, red or purple flowers - a real eye-catcher.


Practical tips/instructions for harvesting the seeds

If you have several basil plants and are trying to grow new ones for next year, you can let a specimen flower without intervening. After all the flowers have withered, the only one to two millimeter small fruits (seeds) begin to ripen within the calyx.

Once the rich seeds have reached their peak of maturity, they are harvested - like this.

  • carefully pick off the withered leaves by hand
  • use your fingers to wipe off the dried flowers over a bowl
  • rub the flowers energetically, but still mindfully, between your hands
  • Sieve the mixture of seeds and flower remains several times

Notice: Until only the black seeds are left.

  • pour the seeds onto a plate
  • leave to dry for a few days
  • put the seeds in a dark screw-top jar
  • put the jar with the seeds in the cool, dry cellar

In this way, the seeds are safely stored until spring. Then it's time to sow.

basil varieties

Special tip: Prefer perennial basil varieties

The previous descriptions relate primarily to annual basil. However, there are also perennial varieties of royal herb. These have the great advantage that the blossom does not have a negative effect on the aroma of the leaves. In addition, the plant does not stop growing in the flowering state and does not develop seed heads. It follows that with a perennial basil you can enjoy the beautiful flowers and at the same time harvest rich shoots with aromatic leaves.

Tip: Wintering of perennial plants is allowed to be indoors.

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