It’s finally here! Basil season! It took a little longer this year and I don’t think I am going to get as much basil as I did last year but I am so excited my kitchen counters are full of basil drying after their first rinsing. Basil is probably my most favorite plant to grow. It’s easy to grow from seed. I start basil seed under grow lights starting in February and keep sowing periodically month after month to ensure succession planting. I also broadcast some seed directly in the ground when the soil warms but my preferred method is to start basil seeds indoors.
When harvesting basil I keep a few things in mind. First of all basil is a cut and come again plant which means it will be producing all summer. The basil plant will have a main shoot up the middle and several side shoots. To create a bushier plant and encourage more growth, try to cut each growth back keeping one to two leave sets on each branch. In other words, cut the top off just above the second set of leaves from the ground. This will encourage new shoots which will give you more basil over time. I also try not to take more than a third of the plant at a time. Harvesting basil is important so do it often! Basil is quick to form flower heads so you really want to harvest often to discourage the flower heads from forming. When you return the next week to harvest more basil, your plant will be healthier and even bushier than before!
Last year I probably had about 25 basil plants around my property. This yielded me 21.01 pounds of basil. That’s a lot of basil people! What do you do with that much basil? I make pesto and freeze it in quart bags. Frozen pesto was pretty much taking over my freezer which is great considering we (and my extended family) eat it by the spoonful. I was able to harvest basil from May through November of last year so this year I am definitely getting a late start. Most of the basil plants that I put in early didn’t thrive and are already woody and flowering. The plants I put in later seem to be doing fine though so I am hoping to catch up on my pesto production. Yum!