Pinching with a Purpose: How to Harvest and Save Basil Seeds

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Growing basil is incredibly easy in any garden of any size. A very versatile herb, home cooks find maintaining a few plants within feet of the kitchen a very rewarding addition to their menus for dishes such as pesto. A great example is our Perfect Pot-Infused Pesto, which is also excellent un-medicated.

It is an easy, fresh, organic recipe that can be used with many items, including chicken and pasta. Kids and adults alike will love this dish as it can be adjusted – such as rather than pine nuts, we use walnuts which are sometimes roasted. The type of cheese used can also be experimented with – we enjoy shredded Parmesan-Romano, however other cheeses can also be delicious choices.

This year, in an effort to create and maintain an organic garden, almost completely from seed in the Salt Lake valley, at an elevation of about 4,500 feet, we started some organic basil seeds inside a small nursery we created in our spare room where they grew in to 4 very small bedding plants, which were transplanted in March. They have grown to the point now where they require 8 large containers, after transplantation and a lot of love. For details and pictures of the complete garden experience this season, please click this link to Gradi’s Organic Garden.

Photo Credit: Gradi Jordan

In order to grow healthy, happy basil plants , close attention has to be paid to the life cycle of the plant. Once it is well established and has grown to fit the container, it will start to reproduce by growing small, beautiful white blossoms which also have small sacks underneath. These sacks contain the actual seeds and much like the cannabis plant, they will pollinate if given the chance. In order to stop the pollination process, the plants require each blossom and sack be “pinched back” or removed.

Many gardeners can develop a feel for the blossoms and (in our case) check each plant several times a day as they tend to bolt once they are nearing the end of their life cycle. If the blossoms are pinched and the sacks removed, the plant will not automatically end its life cycle and will be convinced to keep replicating the delicious basil leaves.

Pinching is exactly what it says – pinch each blossom between the fingers, and squeeze the sack to remove the seed. We had been simply pinching the blossoms and allowing the sacs to fall into the container, however my daughter (brilliant that she is) pointed out the fact that we could be saving the seeds for next year, as our garden has been very fortunate and our basil plants are extremely healthy and happy. We want to propagate this particular strain as it has already provided numerous meals of both fresh and cooked basil.

  Photo Credit: Gradi Jordan