Basil is an interesting and easy to grow herb that will make itself at home in containers just as well as in the herb bed or vegetable garden. Basil is popular with gourmet cooks and finds many uses in the kitchen.
Planting and Growing Basil in the Home Garden
Basil seeds are very small and require a little extra care during planting. There’s not much advantage to starting basil indoors so wait until after all danger of frost has passed and plant the seeds directly into the garden.
Sow basil seeds along a shallow row or scatter on top of your raised bed. Cover the seeds with a light layer of sifted compost or topsoil and keep the soil moist until the basil has germinated.
Basil will germinate quickly and once growing, it can be easily transplanted to thin the plants out. This herb requires very little care and is seldom bothered by insect pests. The only maintenance is an occasional pruning to encourage bushy growth and to remove any flower buds that are produced.
Popular and Attractive Basil Varieties
I can’t think of another herb plant that offers as many variations as basil. Here is just a sampling of the basils available for the home gardener: Globe Basil, Mammoth, Lemondrop, Siam Queen, Mrs. Burn’s Lemon Basil, Purple Dark Opal, Thai Basil, Sweet Genovese, Cinnamon, Lime Basil, Red Rubin, Lettuce Leaved, Clove, and Sacred Basil.
Sweet Genovese and Mammoth Basil are both popular choices for the gourmet chef and general kitchen uses, while Thai Basil is commonly used in Vietnamese cooking. The red and purple varieties such as Dark Opal add an ornamental flair to the herb or vegetable garden, and Globe Basil is a compact variety that is great for containers.
Preserving and Cooking with Fresh Basil
Pesto heads the list of popular culinary uses for fresh basil. It can also be used to flavor beans, rice, pasta, omelets, soups, and stews. Basil makes a good addition to salads, pairs well with tomatoes, and can be cooked along with a variety of fresh vegetables.
For the best results basil should be harvested just before you’re ready to use the herb in your favorite recipes. For winter uses the leaves can be dried and stored. Another method to preserve fresh basil is to freeze it. Simply chop the leaves, add to ice cube trays, top with water and freeze. The cubes will then be ready whenever you need to add the flavor of fresh basil to your cooking.
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