Basil is a great herb to grow, whether you’re a farmer or home gardener. They are easy to care for and produce good yield when maintained properly, and you can use the leaves for yummy dishes. But wait- you’ve already cared for the plant and begun harvesting it, only for it to taste bitter!
Why does it taste bitter? You may have heard of basil leaves tasting bitter with the presence of flower buds, though does basil get bitter when it flowers? Read on to find out!
Does Basil Get Bitter When It Flowers?
Short answer: YES, basil does get bitter when it flowers. And if you didn’t know yet, YES, basil plants produce flowers!
They start to flower at the end of their lifecycle, and these flowers will originate new seeds. When it does this, your plant will die, which is part of the natural process.
During this stage, the basil plant uses the last of its energy to develop flowers and seeds, leaving fewer resources for the rest, including its leaves. As a result, the production of leaves stops, and the already-developed leaves will experience drops in its natural oil content, which causes the bitter taste.
Basically, the basil leaves’ maximum oil content, which contributes to its best taste, would happen before the basil plant flowers. When the basil plant begins to bloom, then the older leaves would deteriorate. The leaf production will also slow down or stop, with new leaves becoming smaller and bitter.
So, while these pretty flowers look great, they would ruin your leaves’ flavors!
With that in mind, there are also other reasons why your basil leaves taste bitter! For instance, it can be due to the wrong timing of harvest, as dampness would reduce the basil essential oil production. You’ll need to allow the morning dew to dry up before harvesting, but not doing so during the middle of the day when wind and heat can affect the leaves’ flavor.
Storing your basil leaves incorrectly can also result in bitter or flavorless leaves. Besides pruning and proper basil plant care, you also need to store them properly. The variety of basil plants you invest in and plant will also affect its overall flavor, with some types being spicier or a bit bitter compared to others.
Other factors also include the soil condition and weather, as well as the heat the basil leaves are exposed to. That’s why we add basil towards the end of the cooking process to avoid losing its original and yummy flavors.
What to Do with Bitter Basil Leaves
Unfortunately, you can’t stop the basil plant from flowering, and if you already have flowers on your basil plant, you can’t reverse the process to make existing basil leaves taste less bitter.
However, you may be able to reduce the basil leaves’ bitterness by harvesting them from the plant immediately, preserving them.
That’s why it’s important to prune your fully-grown basil plant regularly. When the flowers have just developed, cut the basil back to its first set of leaves so the new leaves taste less bitter or just as tasty as before. The taste will all depend on how early you removed the developing flower.
The earlier you cut off the flower, the higher the possibility your new leaves become tasty again. When you see any flowers, pinch them off the plant immediately without affecting the leaves and stem!
Learn more about how to harvest your basil properly and prevent it from having the bitter taste in this helpful video:
Wrapping It Up
Basil leaves grow to become big and busy quickly, which is why it requires regular pruning. Without proper pruning and removing its flowers, it may result in your basil leaves tasting bitter and almost inedible! Fortunately, you can stop future basil leaves from becoming bitter with more pruning and pinching off the flowering tops.
I hope that this article answered your question, “does basil get bitter when it flowers?” Now that you know the answer, start looking into why your basil leaves taste bitter and make sure to nip off flower buds for a better harvest next time. Good luck!