Cinnamon Basil: How to Harvest and Use
Answered by: Yvonne Tremblay
Question from: Chery Johnson
Posted on: July 08, 2004

I am growing cinnamon basil and I want to know, when do you harvest the leaves? Do I need to let the plant flower or pinch the flowers off?

Also do you have any recipes for this type of basil? I was thinking of adding it to my spaghetti sauce. Would I use it fresh or let it dry?

You may harvest the leaves as soon as the plant gets big enough to spare some! When plants are small, take only about one-third of the leaves. Mid-way through the summer you can take up to two-thirds without harming the plant. Leaves are best harvested before the plant starts to flower and yes, you can pinch off the flowers which will ensure that the plant continues to produce flavour oils in the leaves instead of putting its energy into seed production. When taking leaves, pinch off the larger ones going around the plant. Leave the "babies" that are starting to grow between the stem and the branches. Regular pruning/harvesting will stimulate leaf growth. Pick leaves just before using if possible, rinse with cold water and dry with a salad spinner to prevent over-handling of leaves. To chop leave, place one on top of the other; roll up and slice into shreds (or chiffonade).

It would be nice added to spaghetti sauce. Use it fresh when you have it, adding it near the end of the cooking so you do not lose the flavour. Also dry some and store in a jar for use when fresh is not available. See previous question re: drying and storing herbs. You may wish to freeze some in oil.

I like to use cinnamon basil in herb salads and infused in the milk when making custards. Try it in most recipes calling for regular basil. Make into pesto for chicken or pasta. Use to make herb vinegars or butters.

For great herb recipes and growing information, preview my book, Thyme in the Kitchen - Cooking with Fresh Herbs, at www.yvonnetremblay.com. It available from Richters.

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