Basil is a culinary superstar that deserves a spot in every kitchen garden. It is available in dozens of varieties, each with its own distinctive traits and flavour characteristics.
Popular examples include Genovese, lemon, lime, purple, and Thai. Genovese is the most popular basil variety used in Italian dishes, while Thai basil is more common in Asian-influenced recipes. If space allows, grow and experiment with several varieties each season.
Growing Facts and Tips
This tender annual is very easy to grow from seed and will benefit from frequent harvesting. Once plants reach 10-12” tall, pinch leaves from the top down to just above the second set of leaves. This encourages the plant to grow into a nice bush form, rather than becoming tall and leggy.
Plant basil in full sun (6-8 hours per day is ideal). Provide afternoon shade in warmer regions.
Basil prefers rich, well-drained soil. Water frequently, but don’t allow their feet to stay too wet.
Tips for Using and Preserving Fresh Basil
Basil is at its best fresh from the garden – Just pinch off a few leaves and you’re ready to go! It is delicious with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella or tossed in with other salad greens.
For larger harvests, trim the ends of basil stems and place in a glass of water like fresh flowers. Then, place in direct sunlight. Don’t store cut basil leaves in the
refrigerator because they will turn brown.
Add fresh basil to your cooked dishes when you are almost finished because cooking will diminish its wonderful flavour and vibrant colour.
To enjoy basil all winter long, turn basil leaves into pesto by combining with olive oil, toasted pine nuts, garlic cloves and Parmesan cheese in a food processor. Add to ice cube trays and top with a little extra olive oil. Freeze and use 1-2 cubes to add extra flavour to soups, stews and slow cooker meals.