Growing Basil: Keeping Basil and Other Kitchen Herbs Fresh

Photo: © Utopia

Growing your own fresh herbs couldn’t be easier: We’ll show you how to grow basil, chives, parsley etc. and how to harvest your herbs correctly. With the right plant care, basil and other store-bought herbs can stay fresh for months.

Learning how to grow basil and other herbs at home paves the way for creative culinary exploration: Tomato and mozzarella salad with basil leaves, hummus topped with fresh parsley, or potatoes with rosemary – fresh herbs simply taste better than dried spices.

Growing basil yourself or even creating your own kitchen herb garden can also save you a few trips to the store. However, pre-potted basil plants can prove very practical and are a good place to start. Potted herbs like basil can actually last a very long time – if you know a thing or two about basil plant care.

Here are some simple yet effective tips on how to care for (store-bought and) home-grown plants such as basil, parsley, and chives so they remain fresh and last longer.

How to Grow Basil: Splitting up and Repotting

Growing Basil splitting and repotting
When growing basil and other garden herbs, repotting leaves them with enough room to grow and a larger nutrient base. (Photo: © Utopia / Binford)

If you decide on potted herbs such as basil, rosemary or sage, make sure to buy organic. This is the best way to ensure the plants aren’t laden with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

Growing basil plants you bought at the store or caring for homegrown herbs is easy – here’s how to care for them and keep them fresh for longer:

  • Divide your basil plants up among three to four pots. Pre-potted plants from the supermarket are often densely packed into one single pot. This leaves them with little room to grow and a significantly reduced nutrient base for each plant. Splitting the individual plants up among a number of pots counteracts this.
  • When repotting, remember to always use flowerpots with a hole in the bottom for drainage.
  • Any loose soil for the new pots works just fine here – no need for any special (and more expensive) soil types for herbs or gardening.
  • You can help your chives, parsley, or basil grow by adding compost soil or natural fertilizers every now and then. They contain additional nutrients, which are important for all kinds of kitchen herbs. As a simple homemade fertilizer, you can re-use coffee grounds, stale beer, tea (green or black tea) or mineral water. Using fertilizers like coffee grounds for your basil also helps put food waste back to use and saves you money. Make sure not to over-compost your plants and regularly remove old coffee grounds and tea leaves.

Read on: Homemade Weed Killer from Organic Ingredients: The Ultimate Guide

Growing Basil: How to Harvest Basil and Other Herbs Correctly

Now that you know how to grow basil, parsley and sage, you just need to keep them fresh. Don’t worry: Succeeding in growing and harvesting basil for months takes no magic – but the right approach to plant care.

Kitchen herbs basil trim keeping fresh
Tip: Harvest the buds with a knife as not to damage the rest of the plant. (Photo: © Utopia.de)

To harvest basil and other herbs, try to avoid picking individual leaves. Use scissors or a knife to cut the buds off individually. This allows for new branchlets to grow and prevents the basil and other plants from blooming. This is very important because the flowers will hinder the plant’s growth – even though they may look pretty.

When the plants bloom, they invest all their energy into flower and seed formation and the herbs’ aroma fades away. To ensure steady plant growth, be sure to regularly remove old and withered leaves and stems.

Basil Plant Care: Watering just the Right Amount

Basil plant care watering
Remember: care for your basil plant by watering approx. 10 percent of pot volume. (Photo: Utopia / Binford)

Your plants should be getting the right amount of light. But if you can, avoid direct sunlight, as this can burn the sensitive leaves.

Even more importantly: Water your plants correctly. This way, they’ll stay fresh even longer. A rule of thumb: The right amount of water equals about ten percent of pot volume.

Parsley can take a bit more water and basil grows best when you keep the soil consistently damp. Too much water can lead to mold forming and too little water will dry out the plants.

How to Prepare Herbs for Winter

In order to prepare your plants for the winter, you should cut them back completely. You can then either use up the herbs immediately – for example in a homemade pesto –, you can dry them or freeze them.

Tip: You can freeze fresh herbs like basil in an ice cube tray. Simply chop finely and add a few drops of olive oil. That way you’ll have handy portions ready to use. Here are some more tips for freezing foods without plastic.

Growing basil and other annual herbs such as dill throughout the winter can prove rather difficult. Better options are perennials such as rosemary and sage.

Growing Basil: Keeping Basil and Other Kitchen Herbs Fresh
(Photo: © Utopia)

This article was translated from German by Evan Binford. Here’s the original: Mit diesen Tricks bleiben Basilikum & Co. ewig frisch

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