Harvest Basil Seeds

There is nothing tastier than the flavors of summer married into a lovely salad of sun-ripened tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil. Of all of the herbs, basil has perhaps the most distinctive of scents and flavors. Once you find a variety of basil, you will want to grow it over and over again.  The easiest way to do this is to save the seeds from those plants once the flowers bolt and go to seed.

Learn to harvest your own basil seeds and create an endless supply of basil in your own garden.

Saving these seeds is very easy and an economical way to ensure that you have you favorite variety in your garden, year upon year.

Easy Tips to Harvest and Save Seeds:

How to Harvest

Basil is pollinated primarily by insect pollinators. Basil is known for cross-pollinating.  Isolating your favorite variety is important so that your seeds will grow and reproduce true to the original plant. Be sure to keep your favorites at least 100 feet away from any other varieties to ensure that no cross pollination occurs.

Once the plants go to seed, after blooming, you will find the seeds in the spent blossoms. You will want to collect the flower heads before the areas containing the seed open and disburse the seeds. Clip off the spent blooms and dry them out on some paper towels for several days in a warm and dry location. Once dry, you will crust the blooms into a colander and pick out the organic debris. The seed should fall through the holes into the colander where you can easily collect the tiny seeds.

Look at all these seeds you can get just from a few flowering basil leaves!

How Long Can You Keep The Seeds?

Proper storage is vital for storing any seeds and basil is no exception. How long do they keep?  Correctly stored, your basil seeds should germinate for as much as four to five years. Be sure to label your seeds with the variety name and the date of collection. Always use the oldest seeds first. Keep them completely dry and in a dark location for best results.

How Do You Store Basil Seeds?

The best way to store any kind of seeds is in a glass jar with a solid lid. Freeze the jar containing the seeds for a few days to ensure that any insects, larvae or eggs will be killed off to protect your seed. Once you remove the jar from the freezer, store it in a dark and cool location.

Starting Your Basil Seeds

Be sure to carefully catalog your seeds and be ready to have the crop of the century! Start your seeds early in the spring in flat planting flats with the most scant covering of potting soil. Keep them moist and warm and set them out to harden off as soon as two to three sets of true leaves are evident.

Collecting the seeds from your favorite basil plants is the quickest way to ensure that your favorite flavors are saved for posterity and that your household supply of pesto is plentiful!

Secret Health Benefits of Basil

Many people are already aware of the culinary uses of basil but you may be surprised to learn of the numerous health benefits of this plant due to its powerful anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties. The western world has taken a keen interest in holy basil’s medical properties and has found that it can help cure and prevent a large number of ailments. Let’s take a closer look at ten of the most popular ways people are using holy basil to increase their health.

Learn about the numerous health benefits of basil due to its powerful anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties.

  1. Improving Oral Health
    Basil is known to help prevent various periodontal diseases, fight off pyorrhea, and eliminate bad breath. To use basil for this purpose, it’s recommended to dry basil leaves in the sun for two to three days. Once dried, crush the basil leaves into a powder, which you then use to brush your teeth. In addition, when you massage your gums with the basil powder it will eliminate bad breath.
  2. Quitting Smoking
    Some sources claim that chewing basil leaves has been more effective than nicotine patches in reducing nicotine cravings. It’s also been said that the antioxidants in basil leaves can help repair damage in the throat caused due to years of smoking.
  3. Helping Cure the Common Cold
    Basil leaves are used far and wide as a remedy for fever and the common cold. Most commonly, the juice of basil leaves has been known to bring down high temperatures during fevers. To use basil for this purpose, you can boil the leaves in water to create a type of tea, which you drink.
  4. Treating Ear Infections
    Basil can be used to treat minor ear infections and relieve the pain associated with it. To do this, extract the juice from 4-5 basil leaves by crushing them and then applying the paste directly around the infected ear. You can also mix the basil paste with a carrier oil like coconut oil. Once the oil has been mixed, warm it gently and then apply it to a cotton ball that you wipe around the inner infected ear, preferably twice a day.
  5. Improving Eyesight
    Basil is high in vitamin A, which is an essential vitamin for proper eyesight. Additionally, eye sores can be treated with a few drops of basil juice created from crushed basil leaves and water.
  6. Preventing Certain Types of Cancer
    Various recent laboratory and animal studies have shown that consuming holy basil can repair cells damaged by oxidation and radiation, demonstrating the potential to destroy pre-cancerous lesions and tumors. Studies into using basil to prevent cancer are still ongoing but have already produced some astonishing results.

Holy basil has been used for medicinal purposes in India and other parts of the eastern world for centuries. However, it has only been in the last decade that the western world has taken a serious look into its healing properties. As studies continue, there may yet be even more health benefits uncovered in this truly nourishing herb.

photo credit: Healthy via photopin (license)

Basil Health Benefits

In addition to being delicious, there are also a lot of basil health benefits. Though we typically focus on sweet basil on this site, many varieties such are holy basil are well-known for being a vital part to a healthy lifestyle. In fact, in India and other parts of the eastern world, holy basil has been used for health ailments for centuries. Today, we’ll focus on the more modern top 4 holy basil health benefits and how to integrate them in your daily life as natural remedies.

The flavor of basil isn’t the only reason you should be adding it to your diet – it’s a great natural remedy for many ailments.

  1. Increasing Skin and Hair Health:Due to holy basil’s antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, consuming it can help purify your blood and remove toxins, which helps prevent imperfections in the skin such as acne and pimples. Also, try combining crushed basil with a little bit of rose water or sandalwood paste and apply that to the face to reduce inflammation. As a hair treatment, you can add a basil paste to your hair oil to help keep your scalp cool, reduce itchiness, and even promote hair growth by improving circulation in your scalp.
  2. Reducing Stress:It seems like everyone is looking for a miracle stress reducer but the reality is, this is a compounding process. Every little thing you do to help stress, adds up, including introducing certain foods in to your diet. It’s extra nice when they actually taste good too! Holy basil contains compounds such as eugenol and caryophyllene which have long been used in essential oils to elevate both mood and spirit. So chew 10 to 12 holy basil leaves twice a day to reduce stress. You’ll need an on-going supply to keep this up, learn to preserve basil.
  3. Eliminating Kidney StonesBecause it is regarded as a tonic for the kidneys, basil is great for the organ’s overall health. Basil is also known to help induce stone expulsion from the urinary tract. To use basil for this purpose you should steep five to six basil leaves in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Then, serve as tea with one teaspoon of honey. Kidney stones are the worst, so every little bit helps to get on the other side of it.
  4. Relieving HeadachesTight muscles and tension are the leading cause of headaches. Because of its analgesic properties, basil is a natural muscle relaxant and is most effective when combined with lavender. In addition, basil’s antiemetic properties help reduce nausea and vomiting. Chew a few basil leaves the next time you have a headache for a natural remedy

So now you know basil is more than just a culinary herb. Don’t you think it’s time to start growing basil at your own at home? Thought so.

Basil Cocktail: “Mint” Julep

My absolute favorite cocktail of all-time has to be a Mint Julep. The muddling of the mint brings out a great aroma and flavor to the drink. And the bourbon serves as a great compliment. I suppose I became a fan on my first trip to New Orleans more than a decade ago. Every time I go back, I make sure to get my fill. It seems so few bars have fresh mint on-hand outside of NOLA, so when I want one, my best bet is to make my own.

From time to time, however, I’m on the look-out for new twists on classic cocktails so I thought there couldn’t be a better place to start than my favorite. Seeing how basil has become a new passion, this was a no-brainer.

Don’t even think about using anything but a quality bourbon for this basil julep — or even a mint julep.

Fresh Basil Julep

Ingredients

  • 3 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon basil simple syrup
  • Crushed ice
  • 1 oz of bourbon (you need a quality spirit here, so don’t you dare skimp)
  • 1 fresh basil sprig
  • powdered sugar (optional, though I don’t prefer)

Place the basil leaves and basil simple syrup in a tall glass. Gently press the leaves against the sides of the glass with the back of a spoon or muddler to release the flavor. Add crushed ice and pack tightly, pour bourbon over the ice and add a basil sprig for garnish. Easy!

If you aren’t up for making your own basil simple syrup, shame, shame! This is a website dedicated to growing your own basil so no excuses. However, if you don’t have enough on-hand to make your syrup recipe, you may find it in specialty grocers like Whole Foods or Central Market. And if you have a really great liquor store in your area (in my case Spec’s) you can probably find it there as well.

photo credit: POW! /  bradley j via photopin cc / Rina Pitucci (Tilling 67) via photopin cc

How to Preserve Basil

Basil is a very tender herb that can be used for many different things ranging from making pesto to utilizing it to make pickling vinegar. The rule of thumb is; if you pick your basil you should plan on using it the same day. If you have to keep it for a day or two put it in a vase of water or if you only have the de-stemmed leaves wrap them in a damp paper towel and put it in a plastic bag in the crisper of your refrigerator.

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Placing freshly picked basil in some water can prolong it’s life for about a week.

So, what do you do if your basil plant grows so successfully that it produces more basil than you can use in a day or two. Don’t worry, you won’t be punished for having a successful plant because there are many different ways to preserve basil. You can keep it in the refrigerator; you can freeze it or store it. It is up to you and how you want to preserve your basil.

Two of my favorite ways to preserve any excess basil is to make basil ice cubes or basil butter. To make the basil ice cubes start by carefully washing your basil and letting it dry on a paper towel or in a salad spinner. Once dry carefully pick off the leaves of the basil. Chop the basil into fine pieces and place into the bottom of an ice cube tray. Then, simply pour extra virgin olive oil over the top and place in the freezer. Whenever you are in need of a blast of basil just pop out an ice cube and use it in whatever recipe that you are created.

In order to preserve your basil by making butter follow the steps above of washing and picking the leaves then take butter (I like mine on the strong basil side, so I use 4 teaspoons finely chopped basil for every ½ cup of butter) place in a mixer and whip until light and fluffy, add your basil, salt, pepper, and garlic if you like. Once all the ingredients are whipped together divide up the butter and place on wax or parchment paper and roll it up tightly. Put them in freezer bags and take them out as you need them.

Chop basil and place in ice tray and fill with olive oil to preserve it for up to a year.

photo credit: Eva the Weaver via photopincc
photo credit: Zach Bulick via photopincc
photo credit: jonpalmer