Basil is well known for its use as a culinary herb as well as its purported health benefits. You may not know that basil seeds can be eaten just as well as basil leaves. They are a popular part of traditional Asian cuisine, mainly in drinks and desserts found in places like India, Thailand and Vietnam. Check out these instructions on how to harvest basil seeds and you can add them to your culinary repertoire or save them for planting next season.
HOW TO IDENTIFY BASIL SEEDS
Basil seeds are very small and do not grow in identifiable pods like most other herbs, which can make them a bit difficult to locate. They grow on the inside of the flowering heads. Once the petals of the flower fall off, there will be a bit of foliage still attached to the stems and this is where the seeds will develop. They are very small, green when immature, and black when ripe.
WHEN TO HARVEST
Unlike most herbs, which flower, turn brown and are then ready to harvest the seeds, basil can produce ripe seeds right alongside developing seeds. If you look closely at the basil flower stems after the petals have fallen off you can identify the seeds beginning to develop. Black seeds are ready to be picked while green seeds are still ripening. Look closely and use a magnifying glass if needed; they are pretty small. Each “pod” will contain two ripe, black seeds.
To be meticulous, only pick the black seeds and leave the green to finish developing. This can be tiresome. Otherwise, once the basil flowering stems turn brown, carefully cut them from the vine for harvest.
COLLECTING BASIL SEEDS
Put your freshly cut flowering stems in a paper bag. Poke a few ventilation holes and let it dry out for a few days. Shake the bag to free the seeds. Poke a few ventilation holes in your paper bag to ensure that mold does not develop while the stems dry out.
Once all of the seeds have separated from the stems (you may have to hand pick a few), you can discard the rest of the plant matter.
DRYING BASIL SEEDS
Basil seeds should be completely dry before consuming them. Dry out your basil seeds on a drying screen in a warm space with good air circulation. You can also set them on a tray on top of the oven.
For fast drying, put them on an oven tray. Use a piece of parchment paper so they don’t touch the metal and burn. Set the oven to the lowest temperature. Place the tray on the top rack and turn off the oven. They should only need 5-10 minutes to dry out.
Basil seeds are best stored in an airtight container. Keep them in a cool, dry place to ensure they last a long time.