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Harvesting Basil Seeds

One of my most favorite things about summer is basil, all types of basil. In my plot right now, I have at least four varieties: genovese, bush, lemon & opal. I may even have more, but it’s hard to tell what’s really growing in there sometimes.

One of the gardeners hasn’t been able to tend for his plot, so it was wildly overgrown. I offered to clean it up for him. Lucky for me, he has wonderful taste in herbs. I had been eyeballing his basil for a while because it’s the perfect variety for Nime Chow, summer spring rolls.

Because he hasn’t been there in a while, his Thai Basil is about waist high with five-to-seven-inch flowers. As an additional favor to both of us, I harvested the flowers to save seed. When it’s all said and done, there should be enough seed for all the gardeners to have a little for next year’s plantings. The bonus is that now that the flowers are cut, the basil will continue to grow delicious leaves for all our lovely snacking purposes.

Basil seed is ridiculously small, almost negligible by eye. So to collect them, there’s a little trick.

First, I brought the bundle of flowers back to my kitchen table. At the base of the stems there are usually a couple very tender leaves. So I pluck off the edibles and then place the flowers in a paper container –in this case an envelope — but a paper bag would work just as well.

Close the container and let sit somewhere to completely dry. When the flowers are totally dry, shake the container vigorously. The seeds will fall out of the flowers. Pour the shaken contents onto a working surface and collect the little black seeds. Voila!

I keep a coin envelope of mixed seeds for this time of year, when the basil is flowering so quickly that i sometimes just collect all the flowers and put them all in a bag together. Then it’s a surprise in the Spring!

 

2 replies on “Harvesting Basil Seeds”

Just clip the flowers and put them in a paper sack. Label the sack with the basil variety and wait a few weeks or a few months, or whenever you feel like collecting the seeds. If the flowers are a little brown, then you can see the seeds, otherwise they’re kind of hidden. You’ll never have to pay for basil seeds again! But remember: basil needs stable 90ºF conditions to sprout, so if you do it in a little pop bottle greenhouse w/a heating pad, you can literally have basil year-round!

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