Monday, June 29, 2015

Beautiful and Bountiful Basil

It’s that time of the year when everything seems to be rising from the ground at such an incredible speed. One of our favorite plants that seems to be expanding at that rapid pace is basil - the delicious herb that makes your pesto, pasta and pizza taste fantastic! Luckily, just by harvesting and pruning your basil correctly, you can end up with a fuller, bushier, and more productive plant!

Because basil is in the mint family (aka ‘Lamiaceae’) you should always be harvesting and pruning down the stem near where the leaves branch out. Start at the top of the plant and look down the stem to where the leaves branch off, and if there are two smaller leaves that have formed against the stem.

A lemon basil (L) and a leaf lettuce basil (R) showing the smaller leaves you should look for when pruning.

This is where you will want to pinch or snip! Always snip off the stem about a quarter of an inch above your two little leaves! By cutting there you will be sending more energy to those smaller leaves which will grow larger and produce more basil! You can go as far down the stem as you want, as long as there are those smaller leaves between the branches and stem. If there are none, worry not! Your basil plant just needs some more time to soak up those nutrients and grow- your patience will be rewarded.

By harvesting and pruning regularly you will avoid having your basil start bolting and producing seeds. When the plant starts to produce seeds, it will start to grow small leaves in a pyramid shape upwards, and will cause the other larger leaves to develop a bitter taste. Not at all what you would want for your Italian or South Asian meals! To remove the bolting part, simply snip off the little pyramid bundle and prune down the stem a branch or two.

What new growth will look like if harvested correctly (L). A bolting basil will form lots of little leaves in a pyramid shape (R), which will go to seed and change the taste of the leaves.

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