One of the easiest and most popular culinary herbs to grow is the common or sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum. Native to southern Asia and islands of the South Pacific, this tender annual is primarily grown for its aromatic leaves which are used fresh or dried.
Basil requires a sunny location which receives at least 6-8 hours sunlight per day and well drained soil conditions with a pH range between 6.0-7.5.
Sow seeds directly into the ground when night temperatures are above 55 degrees. Sow evenly, covering the seeds with 1/4 inch of soil. Keep the soil moist until germination takes place. Seeds can also be sown indoors before planting outside in the garden or in containers. Water plants deeply at least once a week. Do not fertilize but once or twice during the entire growing season. Use a liquid fertilizer and follow directions on the package.
Begin harvesting at any time by snipping the fresh young leaves as they are needed. If whole stems are being harvested, cut just above a pair of leaves. New growth will be encouraged at this time and should be seen within a week’s time. It is important to prune the plant periodically through the growing season to maintain tender and productive growth. If basil is allowed to flower and form seed, it will become woody and yields will be much less.
Basil can be used fresh or dried. The clove-like aroma and flavor is a wonderful seasoning in tomato dishes, soups, sauces, poultry, seafood and herb butters. Leaves can be dried by hanging the foliage upside down in small bunches and air drying in a warm, dry, well ventilated room for a week or so. Once the basil is completely dry, strip the leaves from the stems and store them in an air tight container away from heat and bright light. Use the basil within a year.
Freezing is another method of preserving fresh basil. Freeze in small quantities by storing in plastic bags or chop the leaves in small pieces and place these in an ice cube tray’s compartments topped off with water. Properly frozen, these cubes should be used within six months.
Although sweet basil is the most popular variety, there are other varieties. Here are a few to try:
Lettuce Leaf Basil
Siam Thai Basil
Browse our Etsy store for seeds, herb crafted items, sachets, dried herbs. We add new items from time to time, so do keep checking !