Basil is one of the easiest plants to harvest seed from, and learning how to save basil seeds from this annual herb will give you the ability to grow basil for years!
Saving seeds is the best way to make your garden self-sufficient and to save money! Gardening can be an expensive if you’re not careful, so why not take advantage of all the free seeds that plants give off at the end of their season? By learning how to save basil seeds from your herb garden, you can have an abundant supply of these tiny seeds for as long as you’re planning to garden.
Why save basil seeds?
Many people believe that the basil leaves are really the star of the basil plant. Who doesn’t love a fresh Caprese salad in the summertime with all of those garden ripe tomatoes? But don’t let those delicious leaves overshadow the end of the season gem that is basil seeds.
Basil seeds can be saved from all types of basil, so don’t be afraid to save your own basil seeds from whatever variety you happen to be growing at home.
Basil seeds are so easy to save, that there’s really no good reason not to. They’re incredibly small, so storage isn’t an issue, and think of all the basil that you can grow from your very own seed.
I like to think of my ancestors when it comes to saving seed. That’s what most of them did, not just to save money, but because seed companies and Amazon weren’t just dropping off packages on their doorstep in two days. Ha! Saving seed helps me to feel more self-sufficient, and that’s always a good thing.
Basil seed can also be used not just for growing more basil, but there are health claims about consuming basil seed. I’m clearly not a doctor (and I’ve never played one on tv), but the Faddy Eater at the Guardian tried some popular methods of consuming basil seeds, and you can read his trials here. You can also scroll down to the bottom of this post to see different ways to use basil seeds in the kitchen.
Supplies for Saving Basil Seeds
The list of supplies for saving basil seeds is pretty basic. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Basil plants that have bolted or gone to seed or the dried flower heads
- good quality sharp pruners
- Glass jar or envelopes or plastic bag
- Paper bag or paper towels
You probably have most of these supplies on hand already, so just carve out a little time one afternoon to save seeds, and you’ll be glad you did. Afternoon or early evening would be the ideal time to start this little project, simply because the basil plants would have been out in the sun and would be dry, not covered in morning dew. Let’s get down to the business of saving seeds!
How to harvest basil seeds
There are several different ways to save basil seeds. So choose the best method for your time schedule. When you notice the flower buds appearing on your basil plants, usually in late summer, you can either prune them off to keep your annual plant producing those aromatic leaves, or let the plants flower and get ready to harvest those basil seeds. When a plant goes to seed it’s signaling the end of its life cycle.
Once your plants begins to produce those basil seed pods, how can you harvest the seeds of this popular herb? Here are two options:
- Harvest from dried plants: For this, I simply let our basil plants bolt (bloom) and once those blooms turn brown, I’ll harvest the seeds. To do this, I run my hand down the stem, collecting the seed heads from the dried flowers. Then break them open to reveal the tiny black seeds inside. It’s very low-key and simple. (See the video at the bottom for how to do this.)
- Dry indoors: You can also cut your long basil bloom stalks off and bring them indoors. Set them on a paper plate or a paper towel. Give them several days to a week to completely dry out on your counter or table. Similarly, you can take the cut bloom stalks and place them in a paper bag, or hang them upside down with a paper bag over them. Do this in a dry location out of direct sunlight. As the seed pods dry out, the bag will catch any that drop, and also keep dust from collecting on the pods while they’re drying. Test the seeds by removing from the paper bag and seeing if the seeds release easily when your rub the dried flowers between your fingers. Drying time is anywhere from one week to a couple of weeks.
Once the blooms are dried, remove the seeds as mentioned above and store. I have a video below showing you how to remove the tiny black basil seeds for the flower heads. Then follow the instructions below for storing the seeds.
How to store basil seeds
As with most seeds, basil seeds should be stored in a cool dry place. This usually means a paper envelope or small plastic container that seals well. If using plastic, be sure your seeds are completely dry before storing. Moisture will negatively affect your seeds, so also be sure your container is completely dry.
If your basil plant has gone to seed and there’s still plenty of growing season left, then plant a second harvest of basil. Simply take those seeds from your bolted basil plants and sprinkle them in an area of the garden that’s ready for something new.
Your new basil plants should emerge within a few weeks, and you’ll have fresh basil at your fingertips again. I’ve done this when we’ve had particularly hot summers, since excessive heat will cause basil to bloom more quickly. See my full post about Seed Storage Ideas for ways to store seed at home.
How to Use Dried Basil Seeds
Other than planting, you can use basil seeds as a fun gift for friends and neighbors. Know someone who is getting married? Basil seeds in tiny sachets would make a delightful wedding favor!
Want to keep track of your seed inventory? Grab my FREE Printable Seed Inventory Tracker; I hope it helps you out!
Thinking of using harvested basil seeds outside of the garden? Dried basil seeds, also known as sabja seeds or tukmaria seeds, are often used in various culinary and beverage recipes. These seeds, when soaked, develop a gelatinous outer layer, similar to chia seeds, and are known for their cooling and soothing properties. Here are some ways you can use dried basil seeds:
-Basil Seed Drink: Soak a teaspoon of dried basil seeds in water until they swell and form a gel-like consistency. Mix the soaked seeds with water, lemon juice, and a sweetener of your choice to create a refreshing and hydrating basil seed drink.
– Add soaked basil seeds to your favorite smoothie for added texture, nutrition, and a subtle basil flavor.
3. Baked Goods
– Incorporate soaked basil seeds into muffins, bread, or other baked goods to add texture and nutritional value.
4. Yogurt and Parfaits
– Mix soaked basil seeds into yogurt or layer them with granola and fruits to make a delicious and nutritious parfait.
– Add soaked basil seeds to fruit salads, green salads, or grain salads for a unique texture and appearance.
6. Asian Desserts
– In some Asian desserts, like falooda, basil seeds are used as a topping. These desserts often include a combination of noodles, milk, syrup, and fruit.
When using dried basil seeds, remember that they can expand significantly when soaked. Start with a small amount and adjust according to your preference. Soaking them in water for about 15 to 20 minutes or until they develop a gel-like texture is usually sufficient. As dried basil seeds don’t have a strong flavor on their own, they can easily blend into both sweet and savory dishes, adding a unique texture and nutritional boost.
FAQ’s about harvesting basil seeds
- Can all varieties of basil be used for harvesting seeds? Absolutely. All basil varieties will eventually go to seed including Thai basil, lemon basil, purple basil, genovese basil. So try your hand at harvesting different varieties. If you’re planning to use the basil seeds to grow basil seedlings next year, be sure to clearly mark which variety of plants the seeds came from. This will significantly help with organizing your seed inventory.
- Can I still use basil leaves once a plant has gone to seed or begins flowering? Yes, the basil plant is still very much edible. You may notice a slight difference in the flavor of the leaves, but go ahead and keep using those fresh basil leaves while you have them, or harvest the leaves and begin drying them for use all winter. Here’s my post with full instructions on How to Dry Basil.
- How long will basil seeds last? If stored properly, basil seeds can last up to five years stored. Hopefully you’ll use them before this point and have a steady supply year after year, but long term storage is clearly an option. If you’re wondering if your basil seed is still viable for planting, you can always use my instructions for How to Test Old Seeds. This is a quick and easy method for checking the viability of almost any kind of seed. If you’re looking for guidance on how long most seeds are viable, Simply Smart Gardening has a wonderful chart to help with this. You can check it out here.
Do you have more tips for harvesting basil seeds or storing them for use later? Be sure to leave them in a comment below to share with others. I love how gardeners are always learning new tips and techniques from others; it’s one of the biggest blessings of being a gardener. Have a wonderful week and happy gardening!