Should you chop basil? (how to harvest it)

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Should you chop basil? We will tell you how to harvest the basil, its many uses, and benefits in the kitchen. 

Should you chop basil?

You can chop the basil with a food processor, but the most practical way is to use a sharp knife. Separate the leaves from the stems and form a roll with them. Place it on the kitchen board and cut them into strips. Rest the knife on the basil leaves and cut them with a back and forth motion to the desired size.

It is said that there are more than 60 varieties of basil, but the most common are green and purple basil. It is a fragile plant that can be between 20 and 50 centimeters tall. Its leaves are rounded and green or purple. Basil loses its aroma when it blooms, so it is advisable to consume it before its small white flowers appear.

Herbal medications are employed for self administered pharmaceutical remedies and the parts of the plant are also used as supplementary products by population for all medicinal purposes. The rural community of the country relies more on herbal medications than on modern drug systems, about 80% of the populations in developing countries still use plant based medications for their health care (1).

How to harvest the basil

Whether you pick it from pots or from the garden, the basil will satisfy you if you break only the young leaves. In this way, the plant lives longer, and the leaves will later grow even bigger.

Remember, fresh, basil is the undisputed master of aromatic herbs! If you want the basil to retain its aroma, pick it before it blooms.

Step 1

Harvest the basil leaves before they develop flowers. Remove the leaves before the flowers encourage the plant to grow more leaves

Step 2

Inspect the basil plant until it has six to eight healthy leaves.

Step 3

Remove the leaves from the plant with sharp scissors. Cut the basil leaf stems from the plant, but leave two to four leaves on each stem so the plant continues to grow.

Step 4

Cut the stems at a 45-degree angle after harvest. Place the cut stalks in a jar with water and keep them out of the sun. The basil leaves will last long if the jar is covered with a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator.

In the kitchen

It is preferable not to mix the basil leaves with vinegar; Rather, combine it with olive oil, lemon, tomato, or olives, the classic ingredients of Mediterranean cuisine.

When buying basil, just wash it just moments before using it. If you want it to stay fresh longer in the fridge, wrap it in slightly damp absorbent paper. You can also place it in a tightly closed plastic bag in the fridge or store its leaves in a jar, covered with olive oil. If it is dried basil, keep it tightly closed and in a dark and cool place so that it does not lose its aroma and flavor.

Basil and its many flavors

Originally from Asia, basil is grown today in almost every corner of the world. There are several species of basil, the best-known being: “sweet basil”, grown in southeastern Europe, Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco, and the US, “gratissimum” basil is grown in eastern India and West Africa, “tulsi” grown in Malaysia, and “americanum” which, despite its name, is cultivated in Asia and Africa.

This “royal grass” has many varieties: in addition to the most famous basil, the Genoese, there are about 150 varieties. Here are some of them:

Aniseed basil – has a fine aroma, suitable for sweets, but also for teas. In Vietnam, Thailand, and Persia there are many traditional dishes flavored with this basil.

Dark opal variety – has purple leaves and pink flowers. It tastes harsher, more bitter than the typical Genoese basil, and is very good in cold tea.

Lemon basil – has a fresh and spicy aroma, suitable for fish dishes, but also for desserts and salads in Italian style.

The African blue variety – is distinguished by its red ribbed leaves. It has a slightly camphorated taste, suitable for Asian dishes or poultry soups.

Thai basil – is almost indispensable in South Asian cuisine. Its taste is somewhere between anise and licorice.

The benefits of basil

Basil leaves are rich in phenolic acids (rosmarinic, chicoric, caffeic, and caftaric), flavonol (quercetin, kaempferol) glycosides and anthocyanins. The phenolic compounds contribute to the antioxidant properties of basil leaf extracts. Another important component of basil leaves and flowers is essential oil, which is of high value for the food and pharmaceutical application of this plant. The essential oils distilled from various basil cultivars can contain linalool, methyl chavicol, 1,8-cineole, eugenol, methyl eugenol, methyl isoeugenol, thymol, methyl cinnamate, citral, and camphor. In several studies the antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal activities as well as repellent, insecticidal, larvicidal and nematicidal activities of basil essential oils have been established (2).

Basil strengthens the immune system, regulates the functions of the endocrine glands and cellular metabolism, Improving blood glucose regulation and lipid profiles (3). However, the effects on the endocrine system depends on the level of selenium contained in the plant. Several studies deal with the enhancement of the selenium content in basil plants through foliar fertilization, which increases the amount of this element in the basil leaves (2).

Basil powder has an energizing and antidepressant action, removing the effects of overwork and balancing the mental and emotional state. The consumption of basil extracts led to enhanced working memory and cognitive attention in studies (3).

Basil tea has a calming, antidepressant, diuretic, expectorant, and tonic-digestive effect. Dried basil tea is recommended for people suffering from migraines on a nervous background, colic, gastritis and gastric ulcer, colitis, bronchitis, flu, or cardiovascular problems (4).

Basil syrup is recommended for people suffering from stomach, kidney, cardiovascular, depression, overwork, or anemia.

Basil tincture is recommended for depression, migraines, premature aging, colds, gastritis, colitis, and ulcers.

Basil extracts are also used in cosmetic formulations, due to its skin health properties. In a study, subjects applied the 2 creams containing 3% concentrated ethanol extract of basil leaves and flowers for 12 weeks. Biophysical measurements of skin showed that, compared with the base cream without basil, the formulation with basil significantly enhanced moisture content, decreased roughness, and suppressed wrinkling (3).

Other FAQs about Basil which you may be interested in.

Can you eat dried basil without cooking it?

Can you eat basil seeds without soaking

Can I freeze fresh basil?

Final thoughts

Basil adds a distinctive flavor to dishes and is notable for its fresh aroma. When growing basil in the garden, cut it properly for storage. Fresh basil loses its color and texture quickly once harvested. Storing basil keeps it fresh and lengthens its life. Cut it fresh only when you are going to use it to preserve its high quality (5).

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!


  1. Shinwari, Shehla, et al. Quantitative analyses of medicinal plants consumption among the inhabitants of Shangla-Kohistan areas in Northern-Pakistan. Pakistan J Bot, 2017, 49, 725-734.
  2. Skrypnik, Liubov, Anastasia Novikova, and Elina Tokupova. Improvement of Phenolic Compounds, Essential Oil Content and Antioxidant Properties of Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) Depending on Type and Concentration of Selenium Application. Plants, 2019, 8, 11.  
  3. Singletary, Keith W. Basil: A brief summary of potential health benefits. Nutr Today, 2018, 53, 92-97.  
  4. Khan, Rawoof. Pharmacological Actions of Ocimum sacntum–Review. IJAPBC, 2012, 1.
  5. Lambert,A. Preserving Herbs. 2022. University of South Dakota.