The Easy Way to Grow, Harvest & Preserve Basil


Learn how to grow basil from seed, how to maximize your harvest and how to preserve basil in ice cube trays to use in your kitchen all year long. If summer had a flavour, it would taste like fresh basil. The tender green leaves of the basil plant are my favourite herb by far, and while I absolutely love to eat them fresh in pastas, salads and on top of beautiful homemade pizza in the summertime, I love fresh basil just as much in winter.

There’s something so uplifting about enjoying fresh basil in the depths of winter. It reassures you that summer is not just a figment of your imagination, and that the long winter will end eventually and make way for warmer, sunnier days again. 

So what’s the best way to enjoy fresh basil all year long? You could grow basil indoors. Basil actually does very well grown indoors in a kitchen herb garden. However it needs a lot of light as well as heat. So while placing it near a window in winter will give it the light it needs, it can get quite cold here during the winter months. I’ve had many a basil plant die on my kitchen windowsill shortly after the first frost. It just cannot tolerate those colder temperatures.

Now, if you have indoor grow lights that you don’t mind powering (and adding to your likely already high winter electricity bills) then you could grow them under grow lights. Likewise if you have a heated greenhouse. But most of us don’t have either of those luxuries (or at least can’t afford to power them all winter long). So the best way to enjoy those freshly-picked flavours year-round is to preserve basil in the summer when it’s naturally at its peak. 

The most common way to preserve most herbs is to dry them. This method works really well for herbs like rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley and even chives. But dried basil just isn’t the same. Unlike many other herbs, basil doesn’t preserve its signature, fragrant flavour when dried. It really is just one of those things that is best eaten fresh (or at least as close to its “fresh” state as possible).

One option for preserving is to turn basil into a pesto and freeze it. This is great if you are wanting to enjoy pesto in the winter. But pesto is not fresh basil. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE pesto. My favourites are traditional basil pesto and this garlic scape variation. So tasty! But pesto has a whole bunch of other flavours going on. Chopped, fresh basil, with no added salt or other seasonings, is really what I love most of all.

Luckily, there is a super simple way to preserve basil in this most basic form. All you need to do is chop it up as desired, mix with olive oil and freeze. No need to add anything else. I found the best way to do this is to freeze individual portions in an ice cube tray. Then, when you want to use some, just pop an ice cube or two into your dish and voilà! It’s as if you just harvested basil fresh from your garden!

Learn how to grow basil from seed, how to maximize your harvest and how to preserve basil in ice cube trays to use in your kitchen all year long.

This works especially well when added to pastas or any dish that requires a little oil as well. If you want to sprinkle some on top of pizza or add to a warm, hearty winter soup, just place ice cube(s) in a strainer or in some cheesecloth and allow them to melt. Strain out the liquid oil and dab basil with a paper towel to absorb the rest of the oil. Then add chopped basil leaves to whatever you’re cooking up!

This preserving method is so simple it hardly warrants instructions. But I will walk you through it a little farther down anyway. First, let me tell you a bit about best practices for growing and harvesting your basil:

 

How to grow basil

I’ve always heard that basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow. Perhaps so, but I’ve honestly never been that great at growing herbs. I don’t really know why, but I figure it’s been a combination of overwatering or under watering, too much shade or too much humidity, and letting them flower without pinching the buds off (super important to preserve the flavour).

Also, I used to buy my herbs as part of an herb garden, all crowded together in one pot. I don’t do that anymore. I’ve never had success with keeping these alive. I think they’re just crammed too close together and fighting each other for nutrients. Usually only one plant survives by the end (if that). 

Last year I grew my basil from seed. It started really well. I grew it in the greenhouse because I know basil likes it really hot. But our summers are naturally pretty hot. The basil leaves never got too big, never turned that deep green colour (instead they were more of a lime green/sickly yellow) and the edges of the leaves quickly began to turn brown and die off.

Learn how to grow basil from seed, how to maximize your harvest and how to preserve basil in ice cube trays to use in your kitchen all year long.

I’m not sure exactly why this happened, but I imagine it was simply too hot and humid in the greenhouse. Basil likes conditions to be pretty dry. The greenhouse might be a good way to get a jump on or prolong the growing season, but in the heat of the summer, it’s probably best to just grow it outdoors.

That’s what I did this year. I started my basil from seed indoors and moved my pots outside to our deck. All three pots are doing beautifully. The leaves are all full and healthy and packed with flavour. I coul

d have just got lucky this year, but I think the combination of direct sun, warm weather, fresh air and just enough water has really done the trick.

 

So if you want to grow basil from seed too, here’s how:

1. Sprinkle seeds in soil (I have always used fresh potting soil in pots) and lightly cover with just enough soil to cover them. The general rule with seeds is to plant them just about as deep as the seeds are large, Since basil seed are very small, you don’t need to plant them very deep. Just cover them with a light dusting of soil and then water gently.

* Just an FYI: You need to sprinkle a bunch of seeds for basil to grow. Don’t sprinkle too many so they don’t have enough room to grow, but a good sized handful per pot should do the trick. I say this because we tried planting a single seed at one point wondering if that would grow into a big, beautiful plant. It didn’t. It grew into a single stem of basil. Each seed will grow into a stem, so plant lots!

2. When watering seeds, be careful not to use too much water pressure or you could flood and displace the seeds. Water thoroughly with a spray bottle set to the mist setting or with a child-size watering can that releases a sprinkle of water rather than a steady stream (like from a tap). Keep soil moist at all times when germinating seeds. 

3. If starting indoors, keep in a warm place. Seeds need warmth to germinate. They don’t need light until they have sprouted leaves above the soil, so don’t worry too much about sunlight at this point (unless it’s simply to keep the soil warm).

4. Once basil has sprouted, continue to water gently. You can use a little less water now, but still try to keep the soil from drying out too much. Place basil in a warm, sunny location outdoors. 

5. Once basil has grown to full size and has produced lush, full green leaves, water less often. Either sprinkle lightly in the morning or water every other day or two. Basil originated in India and has been used in the Mediterranean for centuries. Naturally, it does well in warm and arid climates.

6. Harvest basil when it is looking healthiest, before flowers start to appear. Harvest up to 1/3 of the total plant height at any one time. Harvesting will actually encourage plant growth, so the more you harvest the more you will get to harvest over all.

7. If plants do flower, pinch off the flowers as soon as possible. If left on the plant, they make the basil taste bitter. Don’t do what I have done in the past and just wait for the basil to grow bigger and bigger. You’ll just end up with flowers and basil that is past its prime. Harvest regularly to encourage plant growth and enjoy yummy, fresh basil all summer long!

 

How to harvest basil

Learn how to grow basil from seed, how to maximize your harvest and how to preserve basil in ice cube trays to use in your kitchen all year long.

Cut basil just above a leaf pair to encourage new growth.

Learn how to grow basil from seed, how to maximize your harvest and how to preserve basil in ice cube trays to use in your kitchen all year long.

This should be what remains on each stem after you harvest basil. In a couple weeks, basil will be ready for harvest once more.

To harvest basil, either use your fingers to pinch or use a pair of kitchen scissors or hand pruners to cut fresh basil. Cut or pinch each stem just above a set of two leaves. You will see these “leaf pairs” further down the stem. Don’t cut the stem right in the middle, leaving a stub. Instead, cut right above the leaf pair. This encourages new growth.

Basil should grow back and be ready for another harvest in just a couple short weeks. Continue to prune like this throughout the season to maximize your basil harvest. This continual harvesting will also help keep flowers from appearing, but remember to pinch them off if they do appear!

At the end of the season as the weather begins to turn colder, harvest the rest of your basil plant by cutting all the stems all the way to the soil and using/preserving any leaves that remain. You could also try bringing it indoors if it is in a pot. If you do this, remember to give plants lots of light but don’t leave them on a cold, drafty windowsill or they will certainly die. Once dead or fully harvested, basil will not grow back. Basil is an annual so you will need to replant next year.

 

How to preserve basil in ice cube trays

1. Harvest basil when leaves are lush and green (as directed above). 

2. Remove leaves from stems and discard stems. 

3. Stack leaves on top of each other until you have a thick little pile (they are easier to chop this way).

Learn how to grow basil from seed, how to maximize your harvest and how to preserve basil in ice cube trays to use in your kitchen all year long.

4. Cut the pile of basil leaves lengthwise down the centre and then coarsely chop leaves. Continue to do this with all leaves until they are all chopped.

Learn how to grow basil from seed, how to maximize your harvest and how to preserve basil in ice cube trays to use in your kitchen all year long.

5. Place chopped leaves in a mixing bowl or cup and pour enough olive oil overtop to just cover basil.

6. Spoon basil/oil mixture into ice cube trays. Pour in just a little more oil if needed to cover basil. 

Learn how to grow basil from seed, how to maximize your harvest and how to preserve basil in ice cube trays to use in your kitchen all year long.

7. Pop in the freezer. When frozen, remove cubes from trays and store in a ziplock or freezer bag. Use basil cubes as needed!

Learn how to grow basil from seed, how to maximize your harvest and how to preserve basil in ice cube trays to use in your kitchen all year long.

Basil really is such an easy plant to grow if you follow a few simple rules. And if harvested correctly and often, it will give you a continual harvest all summer long. Preserving it in ice cube trays is one of the easiest ways to make sure you will have fresh basil all winter long. So what are you waiting for? Grow, harvest, preserve, and enjoy!

The House & Homestead

 

 

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave


CATEGORIES
HOMESTEADING
REAL FOOD
NATURAL LIVING

4 Comments

  1. Phil

    How does it feel being a stereotypical recipe blog that people make fun of? “You have to scroll through an essay to find the answer in a few sentences at the bottom”. How about stop milking it and get to the point. No one at all cares for the babble you took a day to write at the start.

    Reply
    • Anna Sakawsky

      It feels great! I wake up every day am so grateful and excited to do something I love while serving others too. All of that babble is what allows the search engines to find me, and in turn lets readers like you find me too. It’s also what helps me to pay for my site and support my family, and it allows me to share information like this with readers like yourself at no charge to you! Luckily it doesn’t take me a whole day just to write, but between the recipe testing, photos and writing it definitely does take several hours. But it’s totally worth it because I love what I do, even though I get nasty comments from miserable people every once in a while. It doesn’t really bother me because it says more about them than it does about me. That being said, thanks for taking the time to scroll all the way through the babble to leave this comment! Every comment my site gets tells the Internet Gods to show my blog to more people, so I truly do appreciate it:)

      Reply
  2. Cindy

    I just ziplock bag it stems and all and crumble it frozen into my cooking

    Reply
    • Anna Sakawsky

      I started doing that this year with my parsley and green onions. I love it!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
You Might Also Like
How to Can Homemade Tomato Sauce

How to Can Homemade Tomato Sauce

* This article contains affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure.   When it comes to home-canned food, tomato sauce reigns supreme when it comes to versatility. I don’t know about you, but in our house we eat a lot of...

read more

How to Use A Pressure Canner Safely

How to Use A Pressure Canner Safely

* This article contains affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure.     Canning and preserving food goes hand-in-hand with homesteading and self-sufficiency. And for the most part, it’s pretty safe and straight-forward....

read more

Did you know you can now buy pumpkin spice ramen noodles, pumpkin spice Pringles, pumpkin spice macaroni and cheese, pumpkin spice sausages and even pumpkin spice dog treats?

It’s not exactly a stretch to say that we’ve taken the whole pumpkin spice craze a little bit too far.

But our obsession with pumpkin spice speaks to something much deeper than the flavour itself. (Let’s be honest, pumpkin spice ramen noodles sound gag-worthy).

The reason we tend to love pumpkin spice so much is because it triggers feelings of comfort and nostalgia; Memories of days spent with family at the pumpkin patch or around the Thanksgiving table. In short, pumpkin spice triggers our emotions as much as it tantalizes our taste buds.

But let’s be real, pumpkin spice Pringles ain’t it.

If you’re feeling all the fall vibes and craving a little pumpkin spice in your life right now, stick to the tried and true pumpkin spice latte, but ditch the expensive (and highly processed) commercial PSLs and make your own pumpkin spice syrup (with real pumpkin!) at home for a fraction of the cost! Keep it on hand to add to your coffees, teas and steamed milk beverages all Autumn long.

It’s super easy to make and will put pumpkin spice macaroni squarely in its place (and keep it there!)

Link in bio @thehouseandhomestead to grab the recipe or go to https://thehouseandhomestead.com/homemade-pumpkin-spice-syrup/

#pumpkinspice #psl #pumpkinspicelatte #fallvibes #fromscratch
...

I’ve been feeling pulled to slow down and retreat into my home lately; To turn off the news and social media and focus on the tangible things like lighting the wood stove, preserving the mountains of food still coming out of the garden, and slowly stirring a pot of soup as it cooks on the stovetop.

With everything that’s going on in the world right now, I know I’m not the only one feeling pulled toward hearth and home. This is a heavy time for all of us. No one person is meant to bear the weight of the world on their shoulders, but I've heard from so many people lately who say that's exactly how they've been feeling.

If you read my post from a few days ago, you know I’ve been feeling like that too, but luckily, I've learned how to soothe my soul in difficult times.

And so that's what I've been doing lately...

I've been focusing on the tangible things that I can control, like cooking meals and preserving food.

I've been lingering a little longer in the morning, taking time to sit by the river or sip my coffee in front of the wood stove before hurrying on with my day.

And I've been making a conscious effort to turn off the noise of the outside world and give my family and my own emotional health my full attention.

If you've also been feeling that pull to turn off all of the noise and immerse yourself in more nourishing, productive activities, I want to tell you about a collection of resources that will help you do just that.

The Simple Living Collective’s Autumn Issue includes seasonal guides, tutorials, e-books, recipes and more to help you slow down and reconnect with what matters this season.

* Learn how to forage for healing herbs and how to make your own natural medicine

* Find new ways to celebrate old traditions, and create new seasonal traditions with your family

* Discover new seasonal recipes and crafts to do on your own or with your kids

And much more.

If this sounds like it’s exactly what you're in need of right now, check out the Simple Living Collective and get the Autumn Issue for just $25. But this issue is only available until tomorrow, so don't wait…

Link in bio @thehouseandhomestead to grab it now before it disappears 🍁
...

I laid in bed the other night and couldn’t sleep.

I know that probably doesn’t sound out of the ordinary, especially considering the collective stress we’ve all been through over the past year and a half. But if I’m being totally honest, I’ve done a pretty good job of not letting it get to me.

I used to have really bad anxiety, and I made a conscious effort to learn how to manage it in (mostly) healthy, natural ways. I practice a lot of gratitude every day, and overall I’ve learned to deal with stress, anxiety and negative thoughts pretty well.

Lately though, I’ve been feeling the weight of it all. Aside from dealing with personal issues like our ongoing infertility/pregnancy loss journey and the every day stresses we all face, the bigger things have been feeling bigger and heavier lately; The mandates, the politics, the pushback, the arguments and attacks online, the divisiveness, and the seemingly never-ending pandemic that every single one of us is still dealing with in some capacity.

I’ve been seeing more and more calls to “choose a side.” I’ve witnessed my own close friends on both sides of the debate hurling insults at each other, defending their ground, and refusing to listen to each other’s valid points and concerns.

I’ve even witnessed a widening crack in the homesteading community, despite the fact that so many of our core values and beliefs align and are unique to us.

Despite the division, I would still argue that ALL of us have much more in common than not, and to see the divide continuing to deepen has started to get under my skin lately.

(Continued in comments…)
...

I’ve been keeping a secret…

For the past two years I’ve worked hard to bring you monthly issues of Modern Homesteading Magazine.

Over the course of the past 24 issues, we’ve covered everything from gardening to canning, sourdough bread to backyard chickens, home dairy to herbal medicine, permaculture to fermentation and EVERYTHING in between.

But it’s time for the magazine to step into some bigger shoes, which means we’re transitioning from a monthly publication focused on one specific topic per issue to a seasonal publication which will focus on multiple seasonally-themed topics per issue.

This also means that each issue will be packed with even more great content tailored for homesteaders from all walks of life.

Since the August issue was a week late due to some personal and family issues, and since this next issue is packed with even more great content, it will be coming to you in a few days from now.

That being said, it will also be the last issue you’ll be able to read free of charge. So, if you STILL haven’t subscribed, head on over and click the link in my bio or go to thehouseandhomestead.com/magazine to subscribe for free and you’ll still get to read the August issue (all about fermentation) as well as the Fall 2021 issue (when it comes out) ABSOLUTELY FREE!

Membership prices to access our entire library of issues will also be increasing soon so now’s a great time to lock in at the super low introductory price of just $7.99/year. That gets you full access to every single issue, past, present and future, including the ability to download, save and print each one.

Big, exciting changes are coming this fall! Be sure to subscribe and/or become a member now and be the first to know when the brand new Fall 2021 issue drops in just a few days!

Link in bio @thehouseandhomestead to subscribe or become a member now :)
...

Fall is just around the corner, and that means so is cold and flu season.

This is the time of year when I like to mix up a big batch of elderberry syrup to help support our immunity and keep us healthy throughout the fall and winter.

If you've never made your own elderberry syrup, it's SUPER easy. All you need are some dried elderberries (or fresh if you've got 'em), honey, and a few other herbs and spices.

OR you can make things even easier on yourself and grab a dump-and-go Elderberry Syrup Mix kit from @farmhouseteas!

Whether you opt for plain ol' dried elderberries or the Elderberry Syrup Mix, right now you can buy one and get one for 20% off, plus get free shipping over $59 anywhere in the U.S.

Stock up on elderberries now and use code IMMUNE821 at checkout to get your discount!

Link in bio @thehouseandhomestead to order your dried elderberries and get your discount, and/or to get my full recipe for homemade elderberry syrup (or go to https://thehouseandhomestead.com/homemade-elderberry-syrup-recipe)

Happy fall y’all 🍁
...

Not a bad start to our carrot harvest if you ask me!

One of the things I love about growing food at home is that we get to try all sorts of varieties that we would never find in a grocery store, like these deep purple carrots from @westcoastseeds.

There are so many interesting heirlooms (and hybrids!) out there that just aren’t grown for commercial sale.

What’s your favourite vegetable that you’ve grown that you can’t find anywhere else?
...

Got plums???

This plum jelly is a super easy way to use up any plums you have WITHOUT having to pit them.

(This is obviously especially useful if you have a clingstone variety, because let me tell you from experience, it is NOT worth your time to try to pit those babies!)

But since all you need for this jelly is to extract the juice from your plums, you don’t need to worry about removing the pits. Just toss ‘em in the pot whole!

This plum jelly is also spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Perfect for fall -it basically tastes like what cozy feels like!

Not to mention, it also makes the perfect Christmas gift. (Yup. I said Christmas! But if you wanna give away homemade preserve for Christmas, you’ve gotta start planning that now!)

If you've got plums and are looking for a delicious way to use and preserve them, click the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead or go to https://thehouseandhomestead.com/spiced-plum-jelly/ to get my full recipe and preserving instructions!
...

Happy anniversary to the love of my life @thehumblehandyman

Over our 7 years of marriage and 10 years together, we’ve experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows.

We’ve travelled the world together. We’ve accomplished countless goals together. We’ve learned to grow food and live a more sustainable life, not because we have to, but because it feels right in every fiber of our being.

We’ve created a beautiful baby girl together, and said goodbye to 4 angel babies. We’ve yet to meet our rainbow baby, but I feel in my heart that there’s a soul out there who’s meant to live his earthly life with us. I’m not ready to stop trying.

We’ve built a beautiful home (if not from scratch, pretty close!), and while we’re so, SO grateful for our current home and situation, we both still love to dream about the day we drive up on that 5 or 10 acre farm, keys in hand.

I know we’re only 7 years in, but I can already picture us 20, 30, 40 years from now, giving the younger kids some simple life advice on how to make a marriage work:

#1: Communicate. About everything. Share your wildest dreams and your darkest secrets. Share a bank account! A strong marriage is based on absolute trust. Communication is necessary for trust to exist.

#2: Work toward common goals. Get on the same page about what you want out of life, and if you disagree on some things, find middle ground. Marriage is about compromise, but we also only get one chance to do this life and I don’t know about you, but I’ve got lots I wanna do and I wanna do it next to the person I love most.

#3: Laugh. Cry. Comfort each other. Share all of the raw human emotions with each other. Celebrate what it means to be spiritual beings having a human experience, together.

This is what’s worked for us so far anyway, and I can say for a fact that we’re stronger together and as individuals for it.

Thank you for being the best husband and father Evelyn and I could ask for. And thanks for knowing how to build and fix just about everything. Many of our projects would never get off the ground or our bills would be much higher if I wasn’t married to @thehumblehandyman, and for that I’m eternally grateful 😘
...

When you grow your own food at home, you tend to end up with the very GOOD problem of having too much fresh food ready all at once.

This is definitely the case in our house right now, which means our canner has taken up permanent residence on our stovetop and I've been admittedly pulling some late nights trying to get everything preserved.

Tomato sauce is a top priority for us when it comes to canning because it's such a staple on our pantry shelves. From pizza and pasta sauce to soups, stews and casseroles, we use tomato sauce for so much of our home cooking, and for this reason, having a good, basic tomato sauce on hand is an absolute MUST!

The recipe I'm sharing with you today includes instructions on how to can homemade tomato sauce with a water bath canner or a pressure canner (because tomatoes go both ways;) so you always have the makings of a delicious meal on hand!

Click the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead or go to https://thehouseandhomestead.com/how-to-can-homemade-tomato-sauce/ to get the full recipe and canning instructions:)

What's your favourite way to use tomato sauce at home??
...

© The House & Homestead | All Rights Reserved | Legal

Crafted with ♥ by Inscape Designs