Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is one of the most popular and easy to grow garden herbs. There are many varieties and related species that make up the group of annual basils, but all are warm-season, sun-loving herbs. Basil originally came from India, but found its way into popular Italian tomato and Thai recipes. This relative of mint is often used in tomato sauces, pesto sauce and as a flavoring agent for oils, vinegars and teas.
Basil leaves may be harvested individually or the ends of branches can be pinched off with one or two sets of leaves. Leave enough foliage on each plant after harvest so that plant growth is not significantly reduced. If larger quantities of basil are anticipated for the season, choose cultivars with larger leaves for a less time-consuming harvest. Harvested basil leaves do not store long, even under refrigeration.
Alternatively, the foliage may be air-dried or dried in a food dehydrator at less than 125 ºF until leaves are dry. Also, small bundles of cut stems with foliage may be hung upside down in a warm, well-ventilated room to dry. Crumble the completely-dried leaves and store in small, air-tight containers for up to 12 months.