Basil is a popular herb featured in cuisines worldwide, but did you know that basil flowers also have many uses? You probably didn’t realize just how useful and beautiful they are, so read on about what to do with basil flowers, and you’ll always let a few plants go to seed.
Conventional Uses for Basil
If you’re like me, you have always been told, “never let your basil plants flower and go to seed or it will give your basil a bitter flavor.” So for years, I dutifully pulled off all the tender flower buds I saw that tried to poke their little heads into being.
Culinary Basil Use
By pulling the basil flowers off every basil plant, I had tons and tons of fresh basil leaves that I could use to make pesto, tomato sauce, basil-flavored salt, basil-infused olive oil, flavoring for salad dressings, and a ton of other uses.
But because I pulled them off before they could even flower, I never got to experience how excellent and valuable a basil flower truly is.
I Finally Realized How Great Basil Flowers Are Because I Got Overwhelmed in the Garden
Last summer (summer of 2022), I opened an online veggie stand to sell the vegetables I grew from my 1/10 acre garden.
The online store did very well, and I look forward to expanding the market garden in Spring 2023.
However, I was overwhelmed by it at the height of the summer. I juggled all the growing, marketing, selling, this blog, and two kids.
The days and nights were intense.
Because I was so busy, specific garden tasks didn’t happen. I couldn’t get to everything, and one of the tasks that fell off my radar was pulling off those basil flowers.
A wonderful unintended consequence of my overwhelm was my discovery of how fabulous basil flowers are.
Read on to find out what I learned about uses for basil flowers!
Use Number 1: Pollinators Love Basil Flowers
This year in the garden, I noticed that there were not as many honeybees as there had been the year before. Because we grow using organic practices, I don’t know what caused that, but it alarmed me.
One saving grace though is that we had a ton of bumblebees, and they LOVED my basil flowers!
The plant in the picture below is two basil plants- one cinnamon and one Genovese basil. There are 5-10 pollinators on these two plants at any moment.
You can see the purple flowers of the cinnamon basil at the bottom of the enormous plant mass, and the Genovese basil plant is at the top. The basil blooms have just started to bloom at this point.
Use #2: Basil Makes an Amazing Filler Flower in Flower Bouquets
This use is my favorite use for basil flowers. With impressive results, I cut off large branches of flowers and basil leaves to use as filler flowers in bouquets.
The Plant Stems Act as a Scaffold for the Bouquet
The plant stems are very stiff and robust, and they act as a framework for the entire bouquet.
When I use basil as filler in my flower bouquets, I pick long and wide stem portions with lots of leaves, stems, and flowers.
I put those in the bouquet first to act as the frame for the bouquet. The basil stems are rather woody and can hold up the flower stems you place around them. They are my secret helper when creating structure within a flower arrangement.
See how the basil leaves and flowers create the height and width of the arrangement. I placed those stems first, got them the way I wanted them, and then placed the zinnia stems around the framework.
My flower arrangements won’t win any awards, but this arrangement is beautiful and took 2 minutes to put together from just zinnias and basil. Bringing that kind of beauty into my family’s life is easy, and it’s just what I envisioned when I planted my flower-cutting garden.
Use #3: You Can Make Basil Flower Vinegar
Basil flower vinegar is simple to make and will infuse your vinegar with basil flavor. All you need to do is harvest basil flowers, place them in the vinegar of your choice and let them remain in the vinegar for a week to make sure you transfer enough basil flavor.
I like to use this in the winter when my tender basil is long gone from the garden. It reminds me of the summer; I used basil flowers that I wasn’t going to use for anything else.
Use #4: Basil Flower Oil
Similar to basil vinegar, you can make basil flower oil. Amazingly, I can use all the parts of the plant, including the flowers, to make food items. You can flavor the oil and then use it as a finishing oil to drizzle over summer salads or cook with it.
Our final use for basil flowers that you’ve probably never considered is to make basil flower pesto.
Use #5: Basil Flower Pesto
It never occurred to me until now that you can eat basil flowers. You can make them into a delicious pesto that has unique flavor profiles. The thought of making pesto out of basil flowers blew my mind, but it’s delicious.
To make the basil flower pesto you will need 2 cups of roasted almonds or cashews, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup fresh basil flowers, two tablespoons nutritional yeast, and salt to taste.
Simply pulse everything together in a food processor until the mixture is finely chopped, and you will have the most delicious pesto ever! This pesto can be used on anything from pasta to toast.
Be sure to pull your basil flowers off the plant at an early and tender stage. Their texture will be much softer than if you wait until the flower buds have been on the flower for a while. The basil flowers can get tough if you wait until they all bloom.
Unique Varieties of Basil to Try
You are most familiar with Genovese basil, but several varieties give a unique color and flavor to dishes. These include:
These are just five ways I use basil flowers in my garden. Basil is an incredibly versatile plant that offers many uses, from pollinators to edible flowers and everything in between. I hope this article has inspired you to think of new ways to enjoy your basil plants. Happy gardening!