Have you ever gotten too busy and all of a sudden realized your basil plants have all bloomed (or are about to bloom)? It happened to me more than once. So what can you do now? Are basil flowers edible? Let’s explore what happens when the basil blooms and what to do with the basil flowers if they snuck up on you.
Basil is a favorite plant for any herb gardener: it’s easy to grow and tastes delicious. It’s no wonder you can find basil leaves in the majority of cuisines, from Asia to Europe. Basil leaves are versatile and will happily pair with many flavors and recipes. But what about the basil flowers?
What Happens When Basil Blooms?
Once the basil plant is putting out buds and gets ready to flower, the taste and flavor change. It becomes bitter and not as pleasant, as it puts its energy into forming blooms and eventually seeds.
If you catch it on time, you can snip the unopened flower buds and your plant will continue to put out leaves. You’ll just need to keep an eye on it, as once it starts, it will continue to send out bloom heads.
What I usually do when I see the plants starting to bloom, is take a few cuttings and put them in a glass of water. In just a few days (usually 3 or 4 days), you’ll see new roots forming and you can plant more plants. Check out this guide to growing and preserving basil to learn more.
Should You Pinch Basil Flowers?
If you want to keep your basil fragrant for cooking, you need to make sure to pinch any basil flower head you see, or the flavor of the leaves will change, and you’ll end up with a bitter flavor.
But if you’d like to experiment with using the basil’s edible blossoms in cooking, cut flower bouquets, and crafts, you can let a basil plant or two bloom in your garden. You can pick the whole tender buds, or the tiny individual flowers (if you have the patience).
Are Basil Flowers Edible?
Most people never think of eating basil flowers: 95% of culinary basil use is basil leaves. The remaining 5% accounts for basil flowers added in various dishes for their pretty look and milder flavor.
If using basil flowers, you need to pick them young, before all of the flowers bloom. They’ll be tender then. Later, as the flowers mature and get ready to produce seeds, the basil flowers will get tough and you would likely not enjoy them in your cooking anymore.
The best time to harvest basil flowers is when they just begin to transition from buds. They are tender enough with a distinctive texture. However, some enjoy the additional crunchiness when these flowers age. Experiment and see what you like.
How To Use Basil Flowers
The basil flowers may be purple, pink, or white depending on their breed. Sweet basil with white flowers is one of the more common varieties for homegrown basil. The taste may vary between breeds, so the type you use depends on your personal preference.
When it comes to preparing basil dishes, you can add the entire flowering top to your dish, or just sprinkle the flowers: your choice. We have listed some amazing options to enjoy basil flowers in your meals.
1. Add it to salads
Add a few basil flowers to salads, especially tomato salad and fruit salad for a blast of added flavor, and a beautiful look. Basil blooms make a great addition to most salads.
2. Enhance tomato sauce
When making tomato sauce, add a few basil flower clusters for a more subtle flavor than when adding basil leaves.
3. Make basil salt
Place a handful of basil leaves and flowers into a food processor, add some sea salt, and dry in the oven for a basil-flavored salt. See more details for how to make herb flavored salts.
4. Make basil flowers vinegar (or add to a herbal vinegar with other herbs)
Herb-infused vinegar is a delicious addition to your summer salads: add a drizzle of basil flower vinegar alongside olive oil or any citrus juice and enjoy!
How do you prepare basil flower vinegar? You can easily follow the steps below to prepare your favorite basil flower vinegar:
- pack a glass jar full of fresh basil flowers and add white or red vinegar over them until you cover all the flowers/herbs
- place the jar in a dark place and let it infuse for a couple of weeks
- once infused strain out the flowers and transfer the vinegar into a clean jar with a tight lid
5. Infuse some oil with basil flowers
Don’t you like the idea of enhancing your everyday olive oil with basil flowers? If yes, that brings us to basil flower oil, which is olive oil with the added flavor of basil flowers.
How to prepare it? Again, it’s very easy and convenient!
- clean up the basil flowers and make sure to thoroughly dry them, as any leftover water can disrupt the balance and get the oil to mold (might be a good idea to dry the flowers first in the over (150 degrees for about an hour)
- place basil flowers into a glass jar, and fill the jar with olive oil
- let it infuse in a dark place for 4 to 6 weeks
- strain the oil into a clean jar, or, enjoy the oil with the flowers in your favorite dishes or as a salad dressing
You can also mix basil flowers with other herbs for a herb-infused oil you can use on veggies roasts.
6. Try some basil flowers pesto
We’re all used to making basil leaves pesto, but how about trying a little variation and make it from the flowers? Here’s what you’ll need:
- pine nuts
- basil flowers
- extra virgin olive oil
- Parmesan cheese
This website has step-by-step instructions and quantities needed to make this pesto.
Use the basil flower pesto on bruschetta or pasta, or as a marinade for poultry, beef, or a topping for fish. YUM!
7. Make basil tea
Basil flowers make a great tea. I love how simple to make herbal teas are! Add a few basil flowers to a cup and pour boiling water on top. Let it steep for a few minutes and enjoy.
Make a bigger quantity and chill it for the next day: perfect for those days when you’re working hard in the garden and need to stay hydrated.
And, of course, make sure to dry basil for later too: why not have some for the winter months as well?
8. Add to cut flower bouquets
Basil flowers are perfect additions to cur flower bouquets: they not only add inexpensive filler, but they also add a nice scent to your bouquets. Plant a few different types of basil so you can add different color flowers (and foliage) to your bouquets. Depending on the variety, basil has some lovely purple flowers, or pink or white.
Some plants have purple stems and purple leaves: beautiful additions to your bouquets!
9. Include them in homemade potpourri
If you like making your own potpourri, adding a handful of basil flowers can enhance your end product without adding much to the cost. Mix it up with other herbs from the garden too. And if you plan ahead on making potpourri, plant a few basil varieties such as:
- African blue basil
- cinnamon basil
- chocolate basil
- Genovese basil
- holy basil
- lemon basil
- lime basil
- spicy bush basil
Amazon has a bundle of basil seeds that includes many of the above varieties.
10. Add it to infused water for a refreshing drink
Infused waters are a delicious way to drink your water: they taste good and are refreshing. And, of course, infused water is enhanced with vitamins and minerals from the herbs and fruits you used.
Add a few basil plant flowers to your water bottle and enjoy the energizing flavor!
FAQs about basil flowers
What is the difference between Thai basil and sweet basil?
Thai basil has a spicier and more pungent flavor when compared to sweet basil. However, the former is actually a variety of the latter. Thai basil plants are 12 inches tall, and their shape is more vertical than sweet basil.
Are basil flowers poisonous?
Basil flowers are safe for humans and the majority of pets and animals. However, the flowers and leaves do contain compounds that may harm the digestive system of some animals when consumed in high quantities.
Are Thai basil flowers edible?
Yes, Thai basil flowers are edible. They are spicier and offer a more pungent flavor compared to sweet basils.
What does it mean if your basil plant has flowers?
When a basil plant has flowers, it starts changing its characteristics. The leaves become less tender and change the fragrance and taste altogether.
Does basil change flavor after it flowers?
Yes, the plant and the leaves change flavors after it flowers. The leaves become less tender and change the fragrance. Also, the taste becomes more bitter.
How to stop basil from flowering?
The easiest way to stop basil plants from flowering is to pluck the flowers as early as possible. Many basil gardeners nip the flowers in the bud as soon as they spot any of them. It helps them make sure the basil leaves as sweet, succulent, and tender.
So, are basil flowers edible? They definitely are, and you can use them in many ways. Have fun experimenting 🙂
Adriana Copaceanu is a passionate nature lover living in the country on her dream property where she grows vegetables, lavender, and wildflowers that she shares with the wildlife they attract. When she's not in the garden, she loves spending time with her chickens and planning her next nature project.