Basil is an annual-growing herb which is often used in Italian cooking, but it actually originates from India. There are many varieties of basil nowadays – some of them are spicier, others have a lemony or cinnamon flavor. Basil grows easily in sunny and warm weather. The leaves are used for cooking and the flower buds are edible too.
The size of the basil varies – the “sweet basil” can grow up to 6”, but most gardeners can grow it only up to 3”. Some short varieties grow really well in pots. Basil needs a full sun exposure and warm climate in order to grow successfully. From after you plant the seed, allow 60-90 days and you can harvest the basil. Gardeners try to prevent the blooming of the basil as long as possible. This is done by harvesting the top layer of leaves when the plant reaches 6”. Once the plant blooms, it won’t reach that full and bushy state with lots of tasty leaves. When the plant goes to seed after that, the leaves lessen their flavor. You can still cut them, as well as the flowers, and use them in cooking though.
Basil is part of the mint family and it has strongly aromatic leaves. The different types of basil have different flavors. The color of the leaves goes from green to dark purple. Traditionally, basil is planted among tomatoes as they help each other during the growth. Some of the varieties you can grow include: “Genovese” (with large leaves), “Mexican Spice” (with purple flowers and cinnamon scent), “Spicy Clove” (a quick growing type you can grow in a container), “Lemon” (with a lemony tang and small leaves), “Red Rubin” (with great flavor and purple-colored flowers). Since basil loves heat, you should plant it when the day temperatures are higher. Basil also likes rich soil and you shouldn’t keep it dry. Plant the seeds about 10” from each other. Once the plants reach about 6” in height you need to start pinching off their top leaves, so they don’t grow too high with only few leaves. Keep in mind that basil is sensitive to frost and as soon as autumn comes you should be prepared that the plant will go. If you want to extend its season you can cover the plants, but as soon as frost touches the leaves they will turn black.
You could also grow the basil indoors from seed. You will need direct sunlight (perhaps put the pot on the windowsill) and plenty of warmth. Feed the plant monthly, otherwise its leaves will be pale green and you won’t be happy with their flavor when using them for cooking. As it has already been mentioned, basil needs regular harvesting – the tops should be pinched off and this way you can keep the plants to produce leaves for longer. Basil is used in cooking – it adds not only taste, but color too. You can put fresh basil leaves in salads or sandwiches. You could even wrap cheese cubes in basil leaves if you are aiming at preparing a fancy gourmet dish. Don’t forget that you need to treat the basil as you treat your other potted plants – regular care, plant food, water and sunlight. Don’t forget it’s there and you will be able to enjoy the production for a long time to come.
About the Author:
Nicole really enjoys sharing interesting home organizing and gardening ideas. You can read some of her latest publications at http://www.flowershops.co.uk/.