Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an annual herb that grows from 9 to 24 inches tall, and is either a vivid green or deep purple in color. It prefers full sun and grows during the summer months in zones 2 to 11. Basil is used in sauces, soups, vinegars, pesto and even tea. Easy to grow, basil can be planted in the garden or in a pot indoors on a sunny windowsill. Leaves can be picked fresh, as needed, or frozen for future recipes. To get the most out of your basil, trimming will keep the plant bushy and producing more.
When basil plants are young, usually around 5 or 6 inches high, pinch off the tops of the plants with your fingers or scissors to encourage bushier growth.
Fresh leaves can be harvested at any time for use in soups, salads, pesto or sauces. The best time for harvesting is late morning, after the morning dew has dried.
To encourage a large harvest, especially if you have multiple plants, trim the stems with scissors to within about 6 inches of the ground.
When trimming basil for winter storage, always cut the stems before flowers appear. The leaves are more aromatic and better-tasting before flowering.
After cutting, strip the leaves from the stems. Wash the leaves gently and dry on paper towels. Basil leaves fare better when frozen and should be stored in airtight bags or containers. The leaves can then be added right to your favorite recipes.