How To Grow Basil
Who doesn’t love Basil?! Being one of the most popular herb varieties in the world, Basil is a must-grow for your kitchen garden. Perhaps most well know as an integral ingredient in Italian cuisine, different varieties of Basil are used all around the world. It is easy to grow, has a delicious, fresh and slightly sweet taste (depending on the variety), and is one of the most versatile herbs in terms of its culinary uses. From Pesto to Thai Curries, Basil goes well with a lot of things!
Varieties of Basil
Depending on your culinary preferences, there are many varieties of Basil besides the ‘regular’ Basil you’ll find in most supermarkets across Europe and the US. Are you into Asian food? Then you might consider going for one of the Asian varieties, such as Thai Sweet Basil or Lemon Basil. Or start with Cinnamon Basil if you’d like to use it in sweet recipes, such as cakes or cookies. Read up on the different varieties that the world of Basil has to offer in our article ‘7 Basil Varieties You Can Start Growing At Home‘.
Getting Started Growing Basil
Basil is quite an easy herb to grow, so if you are just getting started growing your own herbs, Basil might be perfect for you. As long as your plants get enough sun, there is not a lot that can go wrong.
You could either chose to start your plants from seed, or buy young plants from the store. If you are cultivating Basil from seed, you can start to sow your seeds in April. This is best done in modular trays whereby one seed is placed in each tray. Then, all you have to do is make sure your seedlings get enough warmth for them to germinate. After about 2 weeks, you will see your Basil coming up.
Time to start counting leaves! When your seedlings have 5 or more leaves, you can transplant them to their actual growing spot. It is recommended to plant your Basil in a pot, but you could also plant it in your garden. Keep in mind though that you should choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight. Ideally, your plants should get around 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day and it grows best in a mediterranean climate. If you happen to be in an area where temperatures are lower and sunlight is a little scarcer, you can grow your Basil inside.
To plant your seedlings, create small holes in the ground with your finger about 10 centimeters distance from eachother. Then place the seedling in the holes and press the soil gently around the plant. After a good watering, you’re all set.
Harvesting your Basil
To get a nice and compact Basil plant, you should pinch or cut the tops regularly, to encourage the plant to grow new leaves. Once your plant has 3 to 5 sets of leaves, cut it off just above the 2nd set of leaves. If you would really like to get the most out of your fresh Basil, you should water the plant the night before you want to harvest, and then harvest in the morning. This way, your leaves will retain the most of its essential oils before the plants starts to dry out again and will taste best.
If you end up with more than you can use, there are several ways to store your fresh leaves for later use. First of all, you can decide to dry your leaves, but this means giving in on some of the flavor. Another method is to freeze your harvest in a plastic zipper bag. If you plan to use it soon, you can also store it upright in a glass jar of water, covering the leaves with a small plastic bag.
Basil is one of the most versatile herbs in the kitchen. Even more so when different varieties are used. Perhaps one of the most well-known recipes containing Basil is Pesto. Although it is just the start of a long list of dishes that go very well with Basil. Especially, in the Italian kitchen, some fresh Basil simply cannot be lacking. Either in a tomato sauce, or mixed in with a salad, Basil is a key ingredient in the Italian kitchen.
But also a little further from home (at least for me), Basil is a common ingredient. Particularly in Southeast Asia, varieties such as Thai Sweet Basil and Lemon Basil are widely used in dishes such as soups, stews and curries.
Pro Tip: Instead of chopping with a knife, break the leaves with your hands to retain more flavor!
Besides being a delicious addition to many recipes, Basil can do some good for your health too! In fact, the variety called Holy Basil, or Tulasi in Hindi, is one of the most important herbs in South Asia and is considered holy in the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism. It is used in herbal teas and as part of traditional medicine.
It is known to be good for digestion and could be helpful when you have an upset stomach. Further it has been noted that Basil has anti-inflammatory properties and can help boost your immune system. And supposedly, it can help fight depression and is said to be beneficial to your skin. Although you should always do your own research, Basil seems to be a very healthy addition to your diet.
What’s not to like about Basil? It is easy to grow, can be used in your kitchen in many different ways and tastes delicious! Get started growing your own today and enjoy your own fresh harvest in just a couple of weeks.