Basil seeds are one of the most popular herbs. They have been used in cooking since ancient times. Some people even believe that they were first cultivated in Mesopotamia during the time of Noah’s flood. Even today, there are many cultures around the world which use them as medicine or foodstuffs. Basil is a member of the mint family and it grows naturally all over Europe, Asia and North America (except Antarctica).
Basil is considered a mild herb with a sweet taste. Its leaves and flowers are eaten fresh or dried and ground into a tea. Basil seeds are also edible but they usually aren’t used in their raw form because of the high moisture content.
Instead, they are commonly crushed up and mixed with other ingredients such as honey, sugar or milk to make them palatable.
The best way to grow basil is indoors where temperatures stay cooler than outdoors and humidity levels remain higher. Basil plants require bright light and regular watering. If you want to grow basil outside, keep in mind that its growth rate will be slower than if grown inside.
Also, it needs lots of space so provide plenty of room for your basil plant.
Basil seeds germinate easily when exposed to warm temperatures. Start them indoors about 8-10 weeks before the last frost in your area. Sow the seeds on the soil and lightly cover them.
Basil grows best in rich, moist, well-drained loamy soil with a pH of 6.0-7.5.
Make sure you provide at least 1 to 2 inches of water every week to your basil plants (more water will be needed during hot weather). You can also add slow-release fertilizer to the soil before you plant your seeds. Fertilize your basil plants every 2 weeks after they are a month old.
You can also sprinkle some around the base of the plant every few weeks.
Harvesting basil is very easy. Just snip off leaves and flowers as needed and as long as the plant keeps growing, it will produce more for you to harvest. Pinch off the flower buds as soon as you see them so the plant will put its energy into producing more leaves and seeds.
Now that you know how to grow basil plants, it’s time to learn how to harvest basil seeds. When harvesting basil seeds, you’ll need to let the flowers dry out before collecting them. This may take a few days up to a week depending on the conditions of your growing environment.
Be sure to harvest the flowers before they produce any seed.
There are two methods of collecting basil seeds: drying and extraction. The drying method is simpler and involves drying out the flowers on a paper towel, then storing them in an envelope until they’re ready to be planted. The second method is a little more complicated but the seeds have a higher rate of germination.
It involves soaking the flowers in water, fermenting them and then drying them out.
First, pick fresh flowers that are at the peak of their bloom. This will ensure that the seeds you harvest will be ready to plant right away. Use the drying method if you just want to get the seeds and aren’t interested in growing more basil right away.
If you want to grow more basil right away, use the extraction method so you can immediately plant the seeds and grow more plants.
Cut the flower heads off the stems. Spread the flowers in a single layer on top of paper towels and place them somewhere well ventilated but out of direct sunlight (like on a shelf). Leave them to dry for about a week, give or take a few days.
When the flowers are completely dry and crisp, put them in an envelope and seal it shut. You can now store the dried flowers until you’re ready to plant them.
Fill a small glass with lukewarm water. Add 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of table salt. Stir well.
Soak the flower heads in the solution for 2-3 days, stirring it every 12 hours. The seeds will start to ferment during this time so be sure to check on them every once in awhile.
After soaking for 2-3 days, pour the entire contents into a colander to strain out the flowers and other debris. Rinse the flowers and let them drain.
Fill a small glass with lukewarm water and add 1/2 tablespoon of bleach. Soak the flowers in the bleach water for at least 2 hours (but no longer than 12). The seeds should start to separate from the flower.
Rinse the flowers and transfer them to a colander to drain.
Fill a small bowl with lukewarm water. Paper clip the tops of the stems so they’re easier to handle. Soak the flowers in the lukewarm water for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
After 40 minutes the seeds should be ready to harvest. Pour the contents into a colander and rinse with running water. Spread the seeds out on a paper towel to dry.
When they’re completely dry, you can store them in an envelope until you’re ready to plant them.
Planting the Basil Seeds
You can store the basil seeds you’ve harvested in an envelope for later planting, but only if you used the drying method for harvesting. If you used the extraction method to harvest the seeds, you’ll need to plant them right away so they can start growing before it gets too cold outside.
Pick a sunny spot in your garden that has rich soil. Before you sow the seeds, stir a batch of compost into the soil to enrich it. Sow the basil seeds 1/4-inch deep and about an inch apart.
Keep the soil moist but not wet and wait for the seeds to sprout. It should take a few weeks before they’re ready to transplant into larger pots or into the garden.
Transplant them into individual pots and keep them inside until it’s time to plant them outside.
You can also choose to grow your basil plants in a container or “window box” on your porch or patio. These are usually ready to be planted outside when daytime temperatures remain above 70 degrees F. If the temperature drops below this while the plants are still young, move them inside until the weather warms up again.
Sources & references used in this article:
Basil seed mucilage as a new source for electrospinning: Production and physicochemical characterization by F Kurd, M Fathi, H Shekarchizadeh – International journal of biological …, 2017 – Elsevier
Basil by P Pushpangadan, V George – Handbook of Herbs and Spices, 2012 – Elsevier
Basil Downy Mildew management options–is it seedborne? by K Grice, G Sun, P Trevorrow – 2018 – era.daf.qld.gov.au
A Beginner’s Guide to Seed Saving by S Thompson – 2009 – spatial.cisr.ucsc.edu
Production systems of sweet basil by E Putievsky, B Galambosi – Basil: the genus Ocimum, 1999 – researchgate.net