Save Your Own Basil Seeds
Near the end of the first summer that I ever grew basil, these beautiful flower stalks emerged from the center of the plant. I'd heard that you're supposed to remove any flowers because flowering compromises the flavor of the basil leaves, but I was knee-deep in being a mom to two toddlers, and the last thing on my mind was removing flowers from a plant. So I let the thing flower, and the bees seemed pretty happy about it.
In a couple of weeks, those flowers had dried into little brown florets, these beautiful little spikes of brown crunchy things.
Just about that time, my mom came to visit (and help with the babies, thankfully) and showed me how I could crush the ends of those little brown florets between my fingers. Two to three little black dots would drop right out of each and every single flower. These weren’t just dots— these were seeds! We're talking thousands of basil seeds inside these flowers that I'd let just hang on the plant in the last month of its growth.
Now at this point in my life, money wasn't exactly growing on trees for us, and so my plant-buying addiction wasn't always possible to fulfill. So, the idea of free plants was something I was absolutely down with. I stashed away every single basil flower I saw in my garden that summer and stuck them all in a brown bag.
When springtime came around the next year, I proudly pulled all of those dried flowers out of the brown bag, smashed them to my heart's content, and covered the garden with basil seeds. And in just a month, I had more basil than I knew what to do with.
Let's look at how to harvest your own basil seeds.
Steps to Harvest Basil Seeds
Step 1: Let the Flowers on Your Basil Plant Form and Fully Dry
I recommend pinching off flower buds to extend your basil's growing season for as long as possible. Harvest as many of those flavorful leaves as you can and enjoy them fresh. Toward the end of the season, allow your herbs to form flower heads—you'll need the plant to now focus on flower and seed production (instead of leaf production) if you want to harvest your own seeds.
The entire basil plant is still edible, but you will note a change in the leaf flavor once your basil goes to seed.
The gorgeous flower spikes will attract all kinds of beneficial pollinators to your organic kitchen garden.
Step 2: Collect the Basil Seeds
Once the flower heads have turned brown, cut them from the plant. Set your basil seeds harvest in a dry place for a couple more days to make sure they're fully dried before you store them. You can crush the spent flower heads in a colander (one with very small holes since basil seeds are tiny) and pick out the petals and chaff, though separating the seeds isn't even necessary. I simply toss the flower heads into a paper bag and crush them.
What do basil seeds look like?
Basil seeds are teeny tiny black tear-shaped dots. They look similar in appearance to chia seeds. Each basil plant is capable of producing hundreds of seeds.
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Step 3: Save Dried Basil Flowers in a Cool, Dry Place
If you store your basil seeds somewhere cool, dry, and dark, they should be viable for up to five years. Don't forget to label your seeds and add the date you harvested them from the plant so that you can use the oldest seeds up first.
You'll have your own little seed bank of herbs seeds that will multiply exponentially each growing season. You'll even have so many basil seeds you could grow basil indoors as a microgreen and enjoy the taste of summery, garden-fresh basil all winter long if you'd like! If you're a fan of basil seed water, you now have more than enough seeds to make your own.
Harvesting Your Own Basil Seeds to Grow Couldn't Be Easier
If you're growing basil this summer and it starts to send out that little flower, don't cut it. Or if you do cut it, just cut a few of them but let the rest go to flower as they wish. And then at the end of the season, save those seeds in a paper bag.
After winter has passed, head out to the garden with your dried basil seeds, scatter them in the garden, and then call me when you’re swimming in free fields of the delicious taste of summer.
You won't believe how much basil you'll be able to grow from saved seeds. And the best part? It's all free.
The same basil that people spend $5 a packet for at the grocery store, the same basil that people pay $5 per plant at the hardware store—you can grow five pounds of it every summer. Absolutely for free.
Moments like this in the garden are what convinced me that the entire world should have a kitchen garden.
I mean, free plants that look beautiful, smell delicious, and taste out of this world? And also that multiply for free? Seriously, world, listen up. Free basil plants for the rest of your life are sitting out in your garden right now.
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Never Buy Basil Again
Who knew growing your own supply of delicious, fragrant, and organic basil leaves could be so economical? You buy one packet each of your favorite basil varieties (or ask a gardener friend for seeds they've saved), and then you're set for life. Once you have your own little seed bank of your favorite varieties, you can spread the basil love to others.
Here’s to never buying basil again (but still having loads of it)!
Thanks for bringing back the kitchen garden with me one seed at a time!
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