Basil is absolutely my favorite herb in my garden, its distinctive flavor makes it irreplaceable for dishes such as Insalata Caprese. It also has a very forgiving nature, and new leaves will appear between 1~2 weeks after old leaves/shoots having been harvested. Over summer, I will give my basil at least three grand 'hair cuts,' in addition to the day-to-day episodes of "Let's snip some leaves for salad."
Besides snipping off all the mature/green leaves (and only leaving new growth/light green ones behind), I also cut off the branches that are ready for flowering. This is important because otherwise most nutrients will be allocated to reproductive growth--something I learned from my Plant Physiology class in Uni :)
Of course the other advantage of such periodical haircuts is to examine and discard pests, if any. In the past three years at least, my basil plants have attracted some fat green caterpillars, which tend to sleep in the shade side of leaves when being spotted (yes, I did scream the 1st time, but not any more). But these guys are not very greedy, so I haven't bothered to do anything other than dropping them to the soil outside the house ("It might turned into a butterfly someday," said Mr Hippo, when I asked what we should do about the 1st caterpillar. Therefore the humane treatment).
I harvested about 12 cups and 0 caterpillar (knock, knock) from three pots of basil plants today, and it is about 200 g of leaves after further processing. The greatest thing about growing my own is that I do not have to worry about any chemical or pesticide residual. So a simple wash will do!
What I am going to do with this much basil?! That is worth writing another post or two. Stay tuned!