Basil leaves contribute a fragrant scent and herbal flavor to any dish. Home grown basil provides you with an endless supply during the growing season of this cooking herb. Whenever you decide to harvest, you may use your basil fresh or dry it for longer storage.
Harvest basil before the heat of the day sets in, but after the dew has dried from the leaves.
Decide how often you will use your basil, fresh or dried. For continual fresh use throughout the growing season, harvest individual leaves from the upper portions of the plant as needed. To harvest a large amount of basil leaves for drying, Clemson University recommends cutting the entire plant back for harvest just before the first frost if you pinch off the flowers throughout the growing season. The University of Rhode Island suggests harvesting basil before the flowers appear.
Count four sets of leaves from the bottom of the plant, and trim the basil plant above that level using a pair of shears if you need extra basil to dry for long term storage. Optionally, cut off the number of fresh leaves you need for cooking immediately.
Pick individual basil leaves off the cutting, using your fingers to pull the leaves away from the main stems.
Wash the basil leaves and use immediately as a fresh herb in cooking or dry them for long term storage.
Dry basil leaves by wrapping a rubber band around the stems of individual leaves to create a set of three basil leaves and hanging in a warm, dry spot or in a sunny place until completely dried.