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What to Do if Basil Is Flowering

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Have you forgotten to harvest your basil plant, and now you are looking at pretty white flowers blooming at the top of it? What can you do to maintain your herbs healthily and robust?

Here’s what to do if your basil is flowering: If you are cultivating flowers for culinary reasons, you should cut or pinch the flowers off. While they are edible, a flowering basil plant will grow slower, and its leaves will be bitter and blander. Thanks to their basil-like flavor, basil flowers are also a great addition to dishes or herbal infusions.

Now you know that there is no need to worry about the health of your basil plant. So, let’s see how to make the best out of its flowers!

Can You Eat Basil Flowers?

Basil flowers, as well as its leaves and stems, are edible and non-toxic for both humans and pets. Depending on the variety of basil you are cultivating, you will notice white, pink, or purple flowers blooming on their top seasonally. While you can add them to your dishes throughout their life cycle, basil flowers change in texture rapidly. So they are best harvested just after buds turn into petals. At this time, they are softer and more palatable.

In terms of flavor, these flowers have a basil-like taste but milder and sometimes more bitter. In the case of Lemon Basil, you can expect a touch of citrus too. If you are thinking about adding them to your dishes, you won’t need to peel off every petal. Indeed, the whole flower, including the bulb, is edible.

To harvest it correctly, cut it or pinch it off the stem just after it bloomed. Use shears to pick the flowers if the stem seems too woody. Like in the case of Thai Basil, if the stem is too rigid and you cannot pinch it effortlessly, you could hurt the plant by trying.

Can You Eat Basil Flower Buds?

Flower buds are edible, both raw and cooked. However, their consistency makes it preferable to infuse them in condiments such as oil and vinegar. Alternatively, you can dry them and sprinkle them on salads and soups.

If you did not manage to harvest your basil plant in time and you are now trying to find a way to use its flower buds, one of the best things to make with it is tea. This herbal infusion is incredibly easy to prepare: boil some water and add the buds to it! Some of its most amazing benefits are:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces memory loss
  • Reduces damage to the gut and relaxes blood vessels
  • Improves your teeth hygiene

Even in this case, the flavor of the buds changes depending on the variety of the basil. The Cinnamon and Lemon basil will have hints of such tastes. Otherwise, if you are infusing Sweet or Holy Basil, you can enjoy a mild minty and herbal hint.

Can You Let Basil Flower?

Flowering is not detrimental to your basil plant’s health. However, the blossoming is an indication that your plant has stopped growing and is now in a reproduction phase. While you could let your plant flower freely, if you are cultivating it for culinary reasons, you should be aware of the effects of this phase.

Indeed, as for most plants and herbs, if you don’t prune your basil plant regularly, it will stop growing and expanding. Instead, periodically harvesting your herbs can delay the flowering stage and give you many more rounds of fresh leaves to pick each summer! Moreover, a lack of pruning is the main reason for your plant not producing new stems and leaves.

As your basil plant starts to show buds, the leaves will be at their most flavorful and juicy. However, this outstanding feature can quickly fade off and, if you don’t make the most out of this stage, you will find yourself eating much bitter, flavorless basil leaves.

Lastly, allowing your basil plant to flower and bloom can turn the stem woodier, making it inedible. Instead, fresh, juicy stems are a great addition to your homemade recipes if you only want to add a hint of basil flavor rather than the whole leaf.

Can Basil Flowers Be Used in Pesto/Cooking?

As we have seen, basil flowers are edible and represent a tasty touch to any dish, whether you prefer them raw or cooked. Here are only some of the many ways to introduce this ingredient into your recipes!

Salads

Adding basil flowers to your vegetable salad is by far the easiest way to add basil flowers to your diet! We all love the flavor of basil in dishes. However, munching on its leaves can be too much, even for the bravest lovers of this herb. Instead, this quick and easy addition can help you add a hint of basil flavor to your dish. As you won’t be cooking the bulbs, make sure to pick them as they are blossoming. At this time, the petals and buds are at their best consistency. 

Alternatively, you could opt to let your flower buds and petals to dry in bunches and then preserve it for future use. Best of all, they will make your salad look beautiful with just a sprinkle!

Basil Flower Oil

If you haven’t tried it yet, but you like the taste of basil, prepare to fall in love with this dressing in no time! Here is a quick recipe to make the best use of your basil flowers:

  • As your basil plant is flowering, cut off the flowers entirely.
  • Push them into a glass jar. The chosen quantity of flowers will depend on how strong you would like your oil to be.
  • Add extra virgin olive oil to the jar until it is almost full
  • Push the flowers downwards and top up the pot with oil
  • Ensure that all flowers are below the level of the oil. If not submerged, they will create mold.
  • Store the sealed jar away from any period between two and four weeks. Again, this time frame depends on how much flavor you would like your oil to have.

After opening the jar, drain it through a sieve into a clean glass bottle or oil container. Now you are ready to add this delicious condiment to any dish you desire! If you prefer vinegar to your salads instead of oil, you can create basil flower vinegar following the same recipe. Just swap the extra virgin olive oil for white wine vinegar, and you are ready to go.

Pesto with Basil Flowers

As any Italian would tell you, the original recipe of Pesto Alla Genovese (Genovese pesto) does not include the flowers of the basil plant. However, wasting away such delicious ingredients would be a sin! Instead, you can opt for adding them to your Pesto mix alongside basil leaves and some baby spinach. 

If you are cultivating your basil plant to make pesto, be aware that leaving it to flower fill reduces significantly the number of leaves you can harvest from it. So if you are not actually after a basil flower pesto, it is best to cut the buds off as soon as they sprout!

Final Thoughts

Any basil lover knows and appreciates the high versatility of this herb, but not everybody is aware of how tasty its flowers could be! A flowering basil plant is growing slower, so cutting the blossoms off improves the quality and quantity of its leaves. 

However, once you harvest the basil flowers, it would be a pity to let them go to waste! Instead, add them to your salad, either fresh or dried, make homemade flavored oil or vinegar with them, or try out an alternative pesto recipe!

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