Growing Basil Brings Flavor to Your Kitchen
Growing basil is a good idea if you like a blend of mint and lemon flavors in your recipes. Fresh basil makes a tangy addition to sandwiches and salads (just don’t use too much). Of course, Italian food is not complete without this tasty herb. Lemony varieties taste great in chicken dishes. Cooking with basil makes it easy to impress guests with your gourmet culinary skills.
Planting & Care
Sweet basil is a sun-loving spice that thrives in rich soil. This plant won’t tolerate cold, so you should start seedlings inside if there is still a chance of frost. Or, you can wait until warm spring weather has fully arrived to sow the seeds directly outdoors. Before planting any type of basil in your herb garden, dig in plenty of compost and soak the soil thoroughly. Seedlings should be thinned to grow at least 6 inches apart.
This herb doesn’t live through the winter outside. However, growing basil in containers indoors will keep you well stocked with fresh leaves year round. Good drainage coupled with plenty of sunlight is the key to keeping this plant happy in a pot. Just sow a few seeds in a container filled with potting soil and compost. Water them moderately, and thin out all but the strongest 2 or 3 once they start growing well.
Most gardeners can create additional basil plants easily from stem cuttings since it is a member of the mint family. Once you know how to grow basil of one variety, you can use the same techniques for any other type. These include Red Rubin, Genovese, and Lemon. Each variety has a different flavor, so it is fun to experiment with this herb. Many of these plants have foliage that is attractive enough to use as a decorative addition to flower beds.
Harvesting & Storage
Watch your growing basil plants carefully for signs of budding. Harvest the top leaves on each plant frequently to prevent flowering. You can use these immediately, refrigerate them for a few days, or dry them out for long term storage.
Dry basil in a warm, moisture free place and then crumble the leaves into fine fragments. Keep your dried herbs in an airtight container to retain the flavor and prevent molding. This spice can also be frozen. However, since it is easy to grow basil all year, you may simply want to keep a live plant on the windowsill for ready access.
Image courtesy of CC license by Flickr user amandabhslater