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I have tons of basil in my herb spiral.

However, this stuff is precious, and I always feel bad when I throw away the basil flowers when I make pesto sauce.

Is there a way to use the basil flowers when cooking?

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My bees think they are the bees knees! They love the flower of the African blue basil and bring life to the yard. I pinch them back after a while because the plant gets tired of supporting all those flowers and make pesto! –  user20208 Sep 15 '13 at 17:15

14 Answers 14

up vote 22 down vote accepted

If you pinch off the basil flowers as they start to grow, the plant will produce more leaves. (Yes, this is a horticultural answer, but it will help you make more yummy dishes with the leaves.)

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I've also been told, and found through experience, that the more flowers are produced, the less sweet the leaves become. I definitely recommend pinching off the flowers before they actually become flowers. Bonus: where you pinch the stem, the two leaves will become main stems, so you can keep making the plant more bushy as you trim it! –  stephennmcdonald Aug 20 '10 at 16:11
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Thanks for all the answers, this is indeed what I will do. (Basically turn the flowers in to more leaves by pinching the flowers). –  HerbSpiral Aug 21 '10 at 6:10

I grow Queen Siam Thai Basil and Genovese Basil.

I use the flowers in soups and pesto mostly and I don't notice them being bitter or making the leaves bitter once the plants start flowering. The flowers do seem to have a condensed flavor. I do however snip the basil leaves while they are young and smallish since the taste seems cleaner and fresher when small.

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I love putting the flowers along with lavender, lemon balm and mint in some water and once it almost hits boiling point putting it on low then drinking as tea. Super yummy.

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I've removed the implicit health question - this is an answer, not a question, and health is off topic here anyway. (We're a food and cooking site.) With that gone, I think this is actually a pretty reasonable answer - no one else suggested tea. –  Jefromi Oct 9 '13 at 18:13

I plant Basil along with my Tomatoes to deter insects. One Basil Plant every fifth Tomato Plant, and it really works quite well. I keep cutting the flowers off until near the end of the Tomato season, and then let them go. I have some African bushes that are three feet tall, and app. three feet in diameter. I usually give most away as either fresh, or I hang them in the shed to dry for people who like to preserve them. We do use some for flavoring, especially when we can Salsa or other Tomato products like juice, soup mix, etc.

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Basil flowers can be eaten, for instance in soup.

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Hello, and welcome to the site! As you can see, I changed your answer a bit. Don't worry, this is pretty normal on the stack exchange sites! To clarify, I corrected your English a bit. I also deleted the link you posted, since I did not see the relevance. Why did you put that link there exactly? –  Mien Mar 1 '13 at 8:23

Dry basic flowers can be used to make a awesome little potpourri pouch or a small sachet :)

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Using basil flowers in my fresh tomatoes I'm cooking down to can is Excellent! Strong in flavour but I like that. If you don't dilute it! :-) ~

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I leave them on the plant because the bees just love them. I grow basil mostly for the bees now. The bees need our help. When they go we go.

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If you grow African Blue Basil, you'll have a TON of flowers that are not at all bitter at any time. We use them in all kinds of cooking, but our favorite use is to make Basil Bud Ice Cream. Literally the best ice cream I've ever tasted. The flavor of these flowers is the basil itself with strong floral overtones that mesh well. Great fresh as a salad topper too.

Honestly, you haven't lived until you try growing African Blue Basil. Everyone raves about it and everything we make with it. Just finished a MONSTER batch of pesto to keep us through the winter. Best plant I've ever grown, bar none. We had about 50-60 plants this year. Also, definitely top them as they grow in tridents and by topping them, you cause them to bush out a lot more dramatically.

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Vinegar. Pinch off the blossoms and pack them in a jar, cover with white vinegar, seal and keep in the fridge for a few weeks to flavor through... Then discard the blossoms and use the vinegar for dressings or marinades. Delicious stuff... Use sparingly though!

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I love basil flowers. They are so much fun and I use them all the time. I have noticed that different varieties of basil at different times of the summer/growth stage will result in more bitter or delicate tasting buds. You'll just have to experiment, but I have definitely had some really floral tasting flowers this summer.

I'll throw them into a pesto for a more complex, slightly bitter flavor - I just make sure to pick off any woody stems.

They are a beautiful garnish for just about any stonefruit (plums, peaches, nectarines) - how about roast some fruit, serve with ricotta and some honey...with basil flowers? They are gorgeous in salads or panzanella....anything with tomatoes.

Finally, my favorite thing to do is use them to make basil flower ice cream. Steep them along with basil leaves in a plain ice cream base and remove them once you have achieved the flavor you desire. Keep in mind the flavor will develop if you let the base sit overnight (which I recommend) and it will also continue to strengthen a tad as it sits in the freezer. This is generally not a problem if you are making a small batch at home, but more of tip for professionals.

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If you wanted to use them in cooking, I would recommend putting them in a satchel (tie some cheesecloth with cooking twine), as I know some people who don't actually like to eat the flowers, but enjoy the bitter tang they'll add to a dish.

They are edible, however, so if it turns out you like them, they make a beautiful garnish for a salad. I'm not a huge fan, so I generally stick with Martha's suggestion and keep them pinched so the plant produces more leaves.

Once the flowers appear, the plants energy and resources become more dedicated to flowering, and the leaf growth suffers. As mentioned in my comment on Martha's answer, I find that when the leaf growth suffers, the flavor of the leaves suffers as well.

This site recommends putting the basil flowers in olive oil, shaking, and leaving on a window sill for a month to make a light basil olive oil. I've never tried this, and I'm interested, though I'm a little wary of leaving olive oil in a clear container in the sun for a month. The general idea seems cool, though.

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I'd be worried about the food safety of leaving them covered in olive oil for a month. Doing that with garlic risks botulism. No idea why it wouldn't with basil flowers (unless they were fully dried first, I suppose) –  derobert Jan 11 '12 at 20:57
    
@derobert, I believe garlic is especially prone to botulism as it goes bad, FWIW. If I were to try this, I'd probably store it out of the sun (or at least not in a super-hot spot) - tightly sealed. –  hunter2 Jun 26 '13 at 8:08

Honestly, I use them as a sign that it's time to toss the basil plant.

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@Ranieri - using Martha's suggestion, there's no need to toss the plant. Pinch them off and watch your plant flourish! –  justkt Aug 20 '10 at 13:22
    
Basil that has flowered almost always drastically changes flavor, getting that hot peppery taste and losing the delicate taste it had beforehand. It's a matter of taste, but I would toss the plant too. –  Todd Chaffee May 2 '11 at 2:22

Yes, you can use them just as you'd use basil leaves. They're generally milder tasting and more decorative in your dish.

Also - from flowers to seeds - a new harvest is also an opportunity.

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You find them more mild tasting? I've always found them extremely bitter. –  justkt Aug 20 '10 at 12:32
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Interesting. Perhaps a species/subspecies thing? –  Tobias Op Den Brouw Aug 20 '10 at 19:15

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