Traditionally Basil is associated with Italian cooking and it is often found in pasta sauces. It is the prime ingredient in Pesto and even has found its way on to pizza. The word Basil in Ancient Greece meant king and plenty of cooks and gardeners would call it the “King of the Herbs”. It is worth noting that there are well over 100 different varieties of Basil and many new ones are being introduced from Asia. Numerous cooks will tell you that Basil has a flavor like cloves and many would also say that the Asian varieties have a more intense flavor than their Mediterranean cousins. Regardless of what variety of Basil you enjoy it is easy to grow and belongs in every herb garden.
Basil is very sensitive to cold and it is treated as an annual if your area is subject to frost. Most varieties are easily grown from seed and I’ve harvested the seed at the end of the growing season to plant it again the following spring. Both plants and seed should be planted after all danger of frost has passed. Most Basil plants are green in color but some varieties have leaves that appear purple. Basil grows best in hot, dry conditions in a well-drained sunny location. It will need routine watering and if grown in a container may need to be watered daily during particularly hot, dry spells. If its leaves have wilted from a lack of moisture, it will quickly recover if watered thoroughly.
Once a stem produces flowers, foliage production will stop on that stem. The stem will become woody, and the flavor of the herb can be impacted by this so be sure to remove the flower stems before any blooms are produced. Harvesting the leaves helps promote new growth and it is possible to harvest leaves from some stems while others are left to bloom for their beauty or to collect their seeds. An additional option is to freeze the harvested leaves for use after the growing season has ended.
Although Basil grows best outdoors, like many herbs it can be grown indoors in a pot. It will require a sunny windowsill or can be grown under fluorescent lights. Due to its sensitivity to cold, it should be kept away from extremely cold drafts. The popularity of gardening with herbs has been increasing year after year and if you’ve never grown it before this is the year for you to try Basil.