Growing Basil, Herb of Love
One of the most useful herbs - a key ingredient for many Italian
and Indian dishes and great when fresh in salads. The
'fresh-from-the-garden' taste is far tastier than the dried
variety - it is almost impossible to buy fresh basil in the UK.
Basil originates from India where it is considered sacred to the Gods.
It now grows wild in the Mediterranean areas, and is one of the
most popular herbs in that area.
Basil lives up to it's origins and is best suited to the warmer areas
of the UK although with correct positioning, it will thrive as a
container plant in most cooler areas.
BASIL QUICK GUIDE
Annual edible herb.
Site and Soil
As sunny a position as possible with well-drained soil.
Plant to Harvest Time
To Grow Basil
Basil has one key requirement - sunshine! Position it in a protected
full-sun position in warmer parts of the UK, and if this is not possible, grow in a moveable
container. Soil should be well-dug and well-drained. If the soil is
heavy, add sharp sand and multipurpose compost to help drainage.
Propagation of Basil
In April, sow three seeds to a small pot in normal moist potting
compost. Lightly cover with compost and place in a warm (15C or 60F)
dark position - try and keep the temperature as constant as possible,
never letting it drop below 10C (48F). The seedlings will emerge in two
weeks time and the plant should be placed in a sunny warm position.
Basil hates water on it's leaves and stem, so water from below.
Planting and Care of Basil
Other than sun, basil has few requirements and can be planted
outside as soon as the temperature reaches 10�C or more
normally. Note that basil is killed by any degree of frost and can even be killed when
cool temperatures last for a significant period. So if your area is not in a warm part of
the UK then grow in a container and be prepared to move the container indoors if there is
any threat of frost.
Varieties of Basil
There are many varieties of basil, the readily available ones are described below.
Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilcum)
- the most popular variety in the UK used in Italian style dishes and
salads. It grows to a height of 75cm (2ft 6in)
basilcum) - form Mexico, with a cinnamon flavour. It grows to a height of 45cm (18in).
Lemon Basil (Ocimum citriodorum) - mild lemon
flavour, commonly used with fish. It grows to a height of 30cm (12in).
Purple Basil (Ocimum
basilcum purpurea) - similar to sweet basil, but with purple leaves. One
of the more tender varieties. It grows to a height of 75cm (2ft 6in)
Red Rubin Basil (Ocimum basilcum) - similar to sweet basil but very
darkly coloured leaves.
HHA. Ht. 75cm. A much deeper colour than purple basil. It grows to a
height of 75cm (2ft 6in)
Thai Basil (Ocimum
sp.) - very spicy, used in Indian cooking. It grows to a height of 90cm (3ft).
Pinch or cut the leaves off as required, but always from the top.
When the plants begin to produce flowers, pinch those out as soon as
possible to encourage more leafy growth.
basil is by far the best for flavour. However, it can be dried by tying
the leafy stems into bunches and hanging them upside down in a dry, warm
and dark place until dry. Then crumble the leaves into small particles
and store in an airtight jar. Basil will retain almost all it's flavour
if placed in small plastic bags and put in the freezer.
A more traditional method of preserving all the flavour of basil is
to layer the leaves in a jar, and lightly salt them. Cover the leaves with a layer of olive oil.
Seal the lid tightly and place in a cool, dark spot or
refrigerate. Use the leaves as needed and reseal each time. This will
keep up to six months. The oil soon becomes infused with the essence of
the basil, making it ideal for use in dressings or in pastas.
Container Growing Basil
Basil is ideally suited to container growing in normal potting
compost. Water regularly (from the base if possible) and feed twice a
month with liquid plant food. As the season progresses, move them round
the garden to the sunniest and most protected position. Basil will grow
well indoors on a sunny windowsill. See our in depth pages on growing herbs in containers by
END OF BASIL ARTICLE
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