Fresh basil leaves are more flavorful than the dried variety. Basil plants will produce many leaves that you can harvest throughout the growing season. Each time you harvest the basil plant, you encourage it to produce more leaves. Harvest basil leaves properly to prevent damage to the plant. Once you harvest basil leaves, they need to be stored or consumed because the leaves have a relatively short shelf life.
Harvest basil leaves once the flower buds form on the plant. Pick the basil leaves in the morning after the dew has dried. Harvest the basil leaves every two to three weeks.
Cut the top one or two leaf sets off the plant 1/4 inch above a set of leaves on the lower part of the stem, according to the University of Illinois Extension. Always harvest the plant from the top down.
Pick a small amount of basil leaves daily. Leaving enough foliage will ensure that you do not significantly reduce the harvest, according to Clemson University.
Store basil leaf stems in a vase with water at room temperature. Cover the vase with a plastic bag and store at room temperature.
Remove the basil leaves from the stems, as you need them.
Cut the plant off at the soil level before the first frost. Remove all the viable leaves from the plant and throw the stems into the trash or compost pile.