Your herb garden is not complete if you are not growing sweet basil. The bright green leaves give off a clove scent and make the perfect accent to a fresh tomato salad.
Basil – There are may varieties of basil which vary in size and color. But Sweet Basil is the most famous. It can’t be beat when it comes to topping tomatoes or flavoring spaghetti sauce.
Some varieties of basil include Green Globe, (it forms a compact mound shape) Green Ruffles, ( can grow 4 ft. tall and looks like a coleus) Cinnamon, (with purple stems and pink flowers) and Thai Lemon Basil ( taste like citrus).
Other varieties include bronze and purple leaf basils including Purple Ruffles and Dark Opal. (Often seen in flower gardens). The flavor of these are not as strong as the green basils.
Uses - Basil is best used fresh. Sprinkle on tomatoes and in spaghetti sauce. Make a pesto sauce of garlic, basil, oil and pine nuts. (Heaven on spaghetti).
Basil leaves are best torn when you are adding them to greens. You can cut basil leaves with scissors when you top tomatoes. Pound with butter and black pepper to make a great butter for grilled steak, chicken or seafood. One of my favorites is scallops with this butter added right at the end of cooking time.
Basil oil is used in aromatherapy and the Indian medicine, Ayurveda. It is used for nausea, motion sickness, indigestion, constipation and respiratory problems. Also basil is used on bug bites and acne.
Propagation – Usually grown by basil seed. But it is hard to get started. The seeds need a constant 70 to 80 degree temperature and the seedlings can easily die if not watered properly. So buy basil plants.
Growing- The bright basil plants do best in a container garden. They like full sun and moist soil. Keep the blooms picked off to make your plant flourish and get bigger.
Unless you have grow lights I would not try growing plants in doors. In the winter you will often find new plants in the vegetable section of your grocery – grab it. Remember basil is best when it is fresh.
Storage- Fresh basil can be keep in the refrigerator in plastic bags, for a short period. You can dry basil but it changes it to an almost minty flavor.
Italian cooks will take their extra basil and pack a jar full of the leaves. Then they add a sprinkle of salt and cover with olive oil. This mixture is kept in the fridge. It is a great way to retain the fresh flavor.
Enjoy growing basil.
P.S. Coming up….great simple basil recipes.
P.P.S. Do you have any Basil tips?