Basil is a tender annual grown for its aromatic and flavorful leaves. The herb can be grown outdoors in garden beds for summer and fall use or grown inside where it will survive the winter before dying off in spring. The foliage of basil is the part used as an herb in many dishes, so proper cutting and harvesting is necessary to get the best flavor from the leaves while leaving enough of it intact to continue producing throughout the growing season.
Cut off single leaves as needed with a sharp pair of gardening shears. Cut the leaf where it joins the main stem and use immediately.
Harvest entire stems by cutting it off right above the bottom set of leaves. Harvest as many stems as necessary in this manner, but leave enough leaves on the plant so it can grow back. Basil leaves grow in pairs, so leaving four pairs of leaves on the plant is necessary for regrowth.
Trim the plant once a week, especially in summer when it is going through abundant growth. Cut off any stems that have become long and leggy to keep the plant bushy and full. Use the leaves you trim off in the kitchen or dry them for later use.
Pinch off any flower buds before they have a chance to open. Once flowered, basil becomes woody and quits its abundant production of foliage.