Holy basil, known as tulsi in India, has a warm pungent aroma with a mild spicy scent. Holy basil makes a pretty garden plant that attracts bees to the garden. This sweet, unique fragrant herb does not keep long after it is picked. It needs to be dried and stored so it can be used in the middle of winter. Holy basil should be cut before flowers appear. If you want the color of the flowers in your dried holy basil mix, then wait for the flower heads to open up. Do not let holy basil go to seed before harvesting.
Things You'll Need
- Holy basil
- Sharp knife
- Dark glass container with airtight lid
Cut your holy basil with a sharp knife just above the bottom two or three sets of true leaves. This should be done right before the day heats up, but after the dew dries off the plant. Leave enough leaves on the holy basil plant so that it will keep growing. You may harvest three to five times during the growing season if you do not cut it back too far.
Examine each holy basil sprig cutting for bugs and insects. Hold the sprigs upside down and shake vigorously to dislodge any hitchhikers. Flick off any visible bugs on the leaves.
Check the leaves for discoloration, disease and damage. Pinch off any of these leaves and discard.
Tie your holy basil sprigs together in bunches. Wrap a piece of twine or a rubber band around the bottom of the sprigs.
Hang the holy basil upside down in a dark, cool area. Dry basil at lower temperatures to keep the color and aroma in the leaves. Your holy basil will be ready to be stored in two weeks.
Pull off the dried holy basil leaves and place them in a dark colored glass jar with an airtight lid. Discard the stems. Use your holy basil within one year; after that it will lose its flavor, color and smell.
Tips & Warnings
- Holy basil is a tropical plant that grows rapidly when temperatures are higher than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It needs to be watered regularly.
- Pinch off flowers heads in order to promote bushy growth before harvesting. This also prolongs the holy basil's productive lifetime by keeping the herb from setting seeds.
- Do not wash your holy basil after harvesting. The herb will start to rot if you get it wet. If your holy basil plants need to be washed, then do it one or two days before cutting while the sprigs are still on the plant in the garden. This will give the holy basil time to naturally dry off before harvest.
- 3 Step Vegetable Gardening; Steve Mercer; 2009
- The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs; Reader's Digest; 2009
- Purdue University: New Crop FactSHEET -- Basil
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