Basil may have been the first thing I ever planted in the way of veggies and herbs. It is super simple getting basil to grow but it also tastes and smells great, and once the basil plant bolts it draws in pollinators like nothing else.
I have grown so many different types of basil, too. I have grown many varieties of basil: Thai basil, Purple basil, Holy basil, Lemon basil, spicy globe basil, dark opal basil, and more. They are beautiful and make great container plants, too. Basil plant care isn’t difficult, so it’s great to start with. Let’s learn more:
Basil is one of the most-used fresh herbs in many kitchens across the globe. While it is mostly associated with Italian cooking and cuisine and making Basil pesto, it’s also a popular herb in many Asian countries, including India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, where it is used to flavor dishes like curry and salads.
This herb is native to the tropical regions spanning from Central Africa to Southeast Asia which means it thrives in sunny and warm weather. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.
Some of the most popular basil types and varieties grown in home gardens include:
- Sweet Basil—the most common basil sold in grocery stores. It has an anise-y taste.
- Genovese Basil—a variety with larger leaves than Sweet Basil but with the same flavor profile.
- Cinnamon Basil—a type of basil with green foliage, purple flowers, and a spicy cinnamon scent.
- Spicy Clove Basil—can grow up to four feet tall and has larger leaves and will later develop white basil flowers.
- Lemon Basil—a type of basil that features the essence of lemon with the sweet anise flavor. It adds a sweet and tangy flavor to dishes like pesto.
- Red Rubin Basil– a compact basil plant with handsome reddish-purple foliage and a delightful aroma.
This extremely aromatic basil leaf herb is a staple in many supermarkets, but you can definitely grow many different varieties in your herb garden if you want a steady supply of this annual herb. Here, we’ll be telling you exactly how to do that. Let’s get started!
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How to Plant Basil
When preparing a planting site for basil, be sure to pick a spot that receives 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day. They prefer full sun but, they can also grow well in areas that receive partial sun.
Basil should be planted in soil that is moist but well-draining to avoid root rot. If you have problems with soil drainage in your garden, you can plant basil in raised garden beds, a large pot, or even small pots.
If you decide to use a pot for best results make drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Avoid picking an area that is close to driveways and busy streets. The leaves can pick up on the scent of the exhaust from the motors changing your plant’s flavor.
Basil can be started from seeds (any basil seeds will work fine indoors whether they are heirloom seeds or hybrid) indoors 6 weeks before your last frost date. The great thing about this is you can then save seeds from your basil plant and use them next year and beyond.
Place basil seeds into seedling containers filled with moistened seed starter mix. Fill the top with ¼ inch of dry seed starter mix.
Mist the top layer of the seed starter mix and cover with some plastic wrap to keep in the humidity. Place the containers in a warm location until they start to sprout in 7 to 10 days.
Once they have emerged, you can place them near a sunny windowsill, sunny spot, or under a grow light and keep the warm soil moist but not wet, by frequently misting it.
Once the basil has grown its first set of true leaves you can transplant your basil seedlings and start by slowly introducing them to the outdoors so they can harden off – take about a week increasing the time outdoors each day.
Caring and Growing Tips
Basil plants need to be watered regularly. They like to stay moist and often require 1 inch of water every week. As with most plants if you’re growing them in containers, they’re going to need more frequent watering.
When it comes to fertilizers, basil plants require very little to no fertilization. A light application of liquid fertilizer twice every season will suffice.
To avoid bolting in the summer make sure to keep the soil moist and to provide light shade in the hottest hours of the day. You can also pinch off flowering stems to keep the entire plant from producing seeds and turning bitter.
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You can start harvesting basil as soon as the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall. Collect from the top branches and cut off several inches. Be sure to handle them delicately to prevent bruising and blackening the leaves.
Make sure to harvest basil leaves early in the morning and pick leaves regularly to encourage growth throughout the summer.
If you have more basil leaves than you can handle, you can store them in the freezer. Store whole or chopped leaves in airtight and resealable bags or use ice cube trays and then place them in the freezer. You can also dry basil leaves by placing them in a well ventilated and shady area.
How to Save Basil Seeds
Even though Basil is a perennial, some people treat it as an annual which means you’ll need seeds to start new plants in the early spring. Saving basil seeds ensures that you get consistent flavor from your plants year after year.
To gather seeds from your basil plants, cut off the brown and spent flower heads and let them dry in a warm, dry location. Once dry, you can crush the heads and pick out old petals and other chaff to separate the plant seeds.
Store basil seeds in a plastic bag or bags or glass jars with an airtight lid. These can stay viable for up to five years as long as you keep them in a dry and dark location.
Uses for Basil
Basil has been used medicinally for years for things such as:
- stomach cramps & upset
- loss of appetite
- intestinal gas
- kidney problems
- fluid retention
- common colds
- snake bites
- insect bites
But, what is most familiar to most of us are recipes that include basil. Most people think of it as a seasoning for other dishes, but mostly we think of it when we think of pesto. Check out this Basil Pesto Sauce recipe:
Basil Spinach Pesto Recipe
- 1 cup Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
- 1 cup Fresh Basil
- 1 cup Fresh Spinach (chopped)
- 1 cup Pecans (pine nuts)
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorrino Romano or Kraft Parmesan
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 2 garlic Cloves
- 1/4 cup Oil
- 1/4 cup Melted Butter
- Toast the pecans in a skillet. In a food processor, chop your pecans and vegetables.
- Add in your oil, seasonings and butter. You can use 1/2 cup of oil and no butter, if you prefer.
- Also, most people use pine nuts but I love pecans and use them when I in everything I can. Pine nuts are expensive, thought tasty……but I can’t tell that much difference.
- Store extra in the freezer
Here are a few other basil recipes you can use your fresh basil in:
- Garlic Basil Chicken recipe
- Asparagus Lasagna
- Feta Stuffed Greek Burgers With Tzatziki Sauce
- Low Carb Chicken Alfredo
- Italian Northern Bean Soup
- Basil Tomato Soup
- Basil Pizza
- Basil Tomato Mozzarella Salad
- Basil Tomato Pasta
- Basil Fried Rice
- Basil Aioli
Other basil benefits come in the form of Basil oil that can also be used as an essential oil.
Have you grown basil before? What is your favorite basil and what do you like to use it for?
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