I have a basil plant in my garden that has plenty of leaves. Should I pick the leaves/stems from the bottom of the tree or the top?
Does this apply to most herbs like cilantro or parsley?
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I would take basil by pinching whole stems off. The new growth is the best tasting and the plant will sprout multiple new stems from the old one. You have to be careful not to overdo it which is why you might want more than one plant to produce enough basil on a regular basis. Most herbs will respond to this treatment, I can't think of any exceptions, but I am sure there are some.
When I harvest my basil plant, I use scissors and cut just above a point where two leaves are located. Those leaves will then sprout two branches and make the plant bushier. Very large leaves near the bottom can also be pinched off and used (why waste them since they will probably fall off soon). Just never let it start a blossom at the top of a branch. The plants life cycle is complete and the plant shuts down then.
The best thing to do always is take leaves from the top of the plant so that it can grow fuller. In the case of a fully grown basil plant, though, the best thing to do is take off as many big leaves as needed so that the other leaves get more sunlight. That way they can grow to full size so that by the time you need to pick more leaves they are fully grown.