When and How to Harvest Basil Seeds? (Explained)

Basil is an aromatic herb that is used everywhere around the world for the flavor of its leaves. While the leaves are definitely the most used, you can also harvest Basil Seeds as they contain nutrients helpful to us.

When to harvest basil seeds?

The basil grows very pretty flowers, but once it starts flowering, the leaves grow bitter, and soon the plant dies. It is natural as Basil is an annual plant.

If you have used all the leaves that you want and are ready to let the plant die then you can let the plant bloom to harvest the basil seeds for next year.

After the basil flowers, wait for at least 4 to 6 weeks for the flowers to go brown. This is important because you need to give seeds time to grow and mature.

All your flowers will not be ready at the same time, so you will need to keep a careful watch.

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Materials Required for Harvesting Basil Seeds

Harvesting basil seeds is a very simple process but you need to be careful as its seeds are very tiny. You need the following materials ready before harvesting basil seeds of a stalk that has already turned brown:

  • Plastic or paper bag
  • Paper towel or paper plate
  • White paper
  • Envelope or container for seeds
  • Sharpie (optional)

How you can harvest your basil seeds?

You can harvest basil in any of the below 3 ways.

Way 1) Pick off the stalks and wait for them to dry

In this method, you should cut off the long bloom stalks and get them indoors. Within a few days or a week, the flowers will dry out completely.

Once the cuttings are dry, get them on white paper. A white paper is useful to see the black seeds of the basil spilling on it easily.

Take the cutting between your two fingers and squeeze out the seeds from the buds.

The seeds are very tiny and rounded in shape and are brown or black in color. About 2mm long and 1 mm wide, they are hard to touch and have the smell of basil.

You can get 5 to 6 seeds from every bud. Make sure you squeeze all the buds to get the maximum seeds out.

Tip – You can use the empty buds in cooking like leaves or use them as compost for your plant.

Once you have separated the seeds from their casing, use a sieve to separate the seeds and the husk or any vegetative material. A fine-mesh sieve would work better as the seeds are very small.

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Way 2) Let the flowers turn brown

In this method, you can let your plant flower and go to seed. Soon after 4 to 6 weeks, it will start turning brown.

Once the flowers turn brown, they become dry. It then becomes easy to harvest the seeds.

To do so, simply run your hand along the stem and collect the seed heads. On breaking them open, you will find tiny black basil seeds inside.

Remove them carefully, taking care not to drop them as they are so tiny.

Way 3) Don’t harvest at all

If you are lazy and have a basil plant in your garden, it can be an easy natural way to propagate basil instead of growing basil from cuttings.

If you are harvesting the seeds just for growing them again next year, you don’t necessarily have to go through the whole process.

You don’t even need to harvest the seeds at all. Once the bloom turns brown, simply remove the entire brown stem and crush it all over your garden soil.

This method will scatter all the seeds all over the ground and new basil plants will sprout on their own the next year.

It is the easiest and fastest way to utilize basil seeds for growing more basil plants.

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How to store harvested basil seeds?

You can store harvested seeds in an envelope or a bag or a container. Label it with a sharpie with the name of the plant variety and the date when it was harvested.

Some people also place them in the freezer for a couple of days to ensure that all harmful bacteria and pests like weevils are killed before storage.

We would recommend storing the basil seeds in a dark, dry and airy place. This will help them stay dry and be ready to be sown for the next season’s crop of basil.

Basil seeds can remain good for up to 5 years if stored well.

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Why should you harvest basil seeds?

Basil is an annual herb. It grows, flowers, and then dies. Flowering and going to seed is the last stage before it eventually dies. When it flowers, the leaves of the basil start drying and falling off.

Most of the people who grow basil, grow it for its leaves. Once the plant starts flowering, the leaves turn bitter.

In order to prolong the life of the basil as well as to keep the flavor of the basil leaves intact, it is recommended that the flowers should be pruned off before they even start blooming.

However, here are the reasons you should let the basil seeds grow and mature as well.

  1. While we love basil for its leaves, the flowers are loved by bees and other pollinators. The bees help in the pollination of basil. The seeds of the basil are extremely tiny and do not require much space for storage.
  2. Basil seeds have plenty of health and nutritional benefits.
  3. You can also use basil seeds to grow more basil. It is always a good idea to save basil seeds to propagate more basil.

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Uses of basil seeds

Basil seeds are edible and have been used since ancient times in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.

1. Basil is extremely rich in nutrients. 

They have anti-inflammatory properties, and pre-biotic properties and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

One 1 tablespoon (13g) serving of basil seeds contains about 60 calories and 7g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 2g protein, 2.5g fat, and 1,240 mg omega-3 fatty acids.

1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces) of basil seeds also supplies 15% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for calcium and 10% of the RDI for magnesium and iron.

Calcium and magnesium are needed for bones and muscles to stay healthy. Iron is used in red blood cell production.

Eating basil seeds regularly can also help in getting magnesium and calcium in your diet. Basil seeds are also good for people who do not consume meat or dairy products to fulfill their body quota of iron and calcium.

Just one tablespoon of basil seeds can meet much of your daily need for alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat. This fat is used by the body to produce energy.

2. Basil seeds can suppress appetite

Because of the amount of fiber in them and the fact that they expand when soaked in water, they take more space and are thus more filling. They fill you up without actually taking much space in the glycogen department.

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3. Health Benefits

These seeds are said to have anti-inflammatory benefits and can reduce the risk of certain conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They can also help in controlling blood sugar levels, especially in people with diabetes.

Basil seeds contain flavonoids, which are plant compounds that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-cancer properties.

Basil seeds have cooling properties. They take only 15 to 30 minutes to absorb all the water. and hence are widely used in milkshakes, smoothies, salads, and puddings.

Basil seeds also make a great alternative to chia seeds. Both have a similar nutrient profile and can be substituted for each other.

4. Helpful in the food industry as a thickener and stabilizer.

Being flavorless, it can thicken food without changing its flavor.