Basil has so many varieties to choose from – some with a classic “basil” flavour, while others have a lemon hint… Some with small pointy leaves to huge green lettuce leaves to beautiful purple leaves.
The fragrant herb is tasty on salads and is a key ingredient in many Italian recipes, not to mention the health benefits!
It helps reduce stress, promote memory retention, and boost the immune system, among other things.
Growing it at home is not hard and it makes a nice addition to any kitchen garden; there are few things I like better than running out to the garden to grab a few fresh herbs (and veggies) while I am cooking dinner!
When starting the seeds, you need to make sure they have enough heat or they will not germinate. I have waited… and waited… and waaaaaiiited for my basil to come up, only to have a warm summer day and suddenly there they were!
Starting them inside, I would recommend getting a heating pad to help them germinate quickly; just at room temperature they seem to take their sweet time.
They like a reasonable amount of water, however like most plants, do not like to have wet soil with standing water.
When it comes to soil, go with soft, well-drained soil with plenty of composting for the best results.
Did you know that pruning basil helps them produce more? It seems counterintuitive, but it is true!
When you prune, you want to look for the nodes just above a set of leaves; cut just above the nodes. This forces the plant to produce a new shoot out of each of those nodes, doubling the stems!
This helps produce a nice, bushy basil plant.
If you don’t prune, it will try to go to seed. I mean, that is the whole purpose of a plant, right? It is trying to gain enough energy to go to seed to produce more plants.
Oh! And while you’re pruning, why not propagate a few new plants?
How cool is it that you can take the top you just pruned off, put it in water, and it will start growing roots?!
When propagating a new plant, make sure that you have a young stem; if it is hard and woody, it will not start roots.
It needs to have about 2 inches worth of stem to propagate well.
Also, you do not want to have leaves beneath the water line as they will get slimy and pollute the water.
After a few weeks, you should have a good root base and can transfer your new basil plant into a pot.
Pinch the leaves off right at the base of the stalk.
They are best used fresh as soon as they have been harvested; basil tends to wilt rather quickly.
You can seal the leaves in a plastic bag, removing all air, and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
One of the easiest ways to preserve basil is to dehydrate the leaves.
A food dehydrator is typically not an expensive purchase and can be used for so many different fruits, veggies, and even jerky!
Fill the trays 3/4 full and run at 175º for 4-5 hours or until leaves are crunchy and dry.
Another easy way to preserve the leaves is to finely chop them, fill ice cube trays with the leaves, and add olive oil.
These make perfect single-serve cubes for pastas and sauces.
I typically let a few plants go to seed before the end of the season so I can save some seeds for the following year.
The pretty purple or white blossoms turn into small seed pods along the basil stalk.
Once they have swelled in size and started to die back, I will cut the tops off to bring into the house to finish drying.
The seeds are tiny, black seeds.
I use a colander with very small holes to help sift the seeds from the chaff.
Store in a dark, cool, dry location for the winter.
Did I miss anything you had questions on? Drop a comment below!