Basil, found to be greatly used in Southeast Asian as well as Italian cuisines, is a culinary herb. Native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia, the herb has been in use for more than 5000 years. The word ‘basil’ has been derived from old Greek word basilikohn, which means ‘royal’, clearly reflecting that the plant had gained both noble and sacred position. It belongs to Family Lamiaceae and comprises of a number of varieties within itself, with sweet basil, Thai basil, lemon basil and holy basil being the most common ones. The plant was a symbol of love in Italy, while in India it was a symbol of hospitality.
The leaves of basil plant are fragrant and can be added raw to salads, sandwiches or used in cooked pasta, along with tomato and basil sauce. While making use of the leaves, ensure to add them near the end of cooking process, so that they retain their maximum essence and flavor. While basil is endowed with many beneficial properties, another good part about the herb is that it can be easily grown at home, without much fuss and effort. If you have a basil plant at your home and want to know how to pick its leaves, the tips given below will prove to be useful.
- You can pick individual leaves of basil whenever you want to use them, throughout the growing season.
- If you want to pick entire branches of basil, then the right time would be just before the plant blooms.
- The best time, in the day, for picking basil is the morning, after the dew has dried. However, make sure that you do not end up waiting so much that the sun's heat robs the leaves of all their essential oils.
- Whenever you want to pick basil leaves off the plant, pinch the stem right below the bunch of leaves. You can also use a knife or scissor for the purpose.
- The more often you pick the leaves of basil, the more and the better will the plant grow.
- If you want basil leaves in bulk, try picking them from different plants, instead of getting them off a single plant only.
- The top leaves should be taken off first, as they are the freshest and have more pungent smell than the other dark or dry leaves.
- You can use the basil leaves in dry or fresh form and they can be chopped and kept in a damp paper towel for long use in refrigerator.
- Avoid keeping the leaves openly in refrigerator, as there are chances that they can turn into an unappetizing black color.
- At a time, you can pick as much as half of the leaves on a basil plant, as long as you fertilize it immediately afterwards.
- Dry leaves can be bought from the market or be kept in a dehydrator. You can even hang bunches of stems to air dry, in a warm room. The dried leaves can be kept for 12 months in an airtight container.