How to Harvest Basil Seeds

It took me a while to get used to the idea of dead-heading things.

I mean, usually when a flower pops up, you’re excited it’s there. But not when it comes to herbs like basil. You have to pinch those little flower buds off as soon as you see them—it encourages the plant to bush out and keep producing those tasty green leaves.

But toward the end of summer, you’ll likely have made pesto, flavored pasta, frozen some for soups and entrees through the winter, and it will still be producing.

At that point, it’s safe to let those little white flowers bloom. You need a break from all that basil, and more important—you need seeds for next year!

Materials

Collecting seeds is

usually a pretty easy process, but as you’ll see, basil seeds are particularly tiny. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Plastic or paper bag (a used grocery bag works great)
  • White paper towels or white plate
  • Envelope or baggie for seeds
  • Sharpie

Harvesting

Letting any plant go to seed is incredibly easy. In fact, it feels a little bit wrong. Because you just let it go. It’ll bloom and over time, it will dry out.

You have a few options for harvesting the flowers. When they’re dry, you can snap them off into a plastic bag to make sure sure the seeds end up with you, and not scattered throughout your garden. You can also snap them off once they start to brown and let them finish drying out indoors, in a jar on the windowsill.

Whatever you do, wait until they’re completely brown and crunchy to try and harvest the seeds.

dried basil flowers 2-min

Using a white surface really helps with distinguishing the random dried bits from the seeds. Spread a few paper towels out on your countertop, or a white plate or bowl. Basically anything white that isn’t a woven cloth that could be hard to pick seeds or bits of plant out of. Once you’re set up, start to crumble the heads of the dried flowers onto the paper towel or plate.

The seeds are slightly rounded and fairly uniform in shape. See one?

basil debris 2-min

It’s a little difficult to distinguish the them from the crumbled bits of plant at first. See one now?

basil debris 3-min

How about now? The longer you stare, the more you’ll get the hang of it.

basil debris 4-min

Gather them with your fingertips, and nce you feel like you have enough seed for next year, you can stop. There should be more than enough in just 3-4 little flower stalks.

basil seeds-min

Storing

Write the name of the plant and the date you collected the seed on a paper envelope (I like these coin envelopes, especially for tiny seeds like basil). If stored properly—in a dry, dark location—basil seeds remain viable for an amazing five years.

So not only do you save money on seed, but you know that the same great flavor will be there next year. Happy harvesting!

basil seed envelope-min


Tried saving seeds? Have any secrets for making basil seed harvest easier? Share your experience and tips below!

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