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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Growing All Types of Basil Everywhere: All Season Long!

Love it or hate it, basil is an easily recognized herb in its green leafy pungent form. I happen to love basil. Did you know it comes in dozens of colors, scents, sizes and taste? It also comes in a bush or shrub variety although these types aren’t typically used for culinary preparations. Basil can be grown year round between your outdoor garden and your kitchen windowsill.

Growing Basil Everywhere: A Year Round Herb

(Imported from my old WordPress Blog)

A Brief History of Basil:

It is believed basil comes from the Greek word basileus. It means “king”. Or it may come from the Latin word basilicus which means “dragon”. In either case the culinary world crowns basil “the king of all herbs”.

Basil is native to many tropical areas.. It has been cultivated for over 5000 years. Over time, it has made its way to every corner of the world and into the households of most cultures. It is grown as an annual in most parts of the world. It needs the warmth of the sun, grows quickly and requires little maintenance beyond picking and using it. There are over 40 known varieties of basil of which Ocimum basilicum or Sweet Basil is the most commonly known and grown. Ocimum is from a Greek verb that means “to be fragrant.” The foliage is easily bruised. Just brushing against the leaves releases its easily identifiable fragrance.

Varieties can grow to a height of 2 1/2 feet and are about as wide. Basil foliage colors range from a pale to deep green, it comes in purples and it can even have variegated leaves with purples and yellows. The leaves vary from fragile and silky, to thicker and crinkly and they maybe dull or shiny. The leaves can be tiny or quite large. Flowers appear in summer on the ends of branches and are either white or lavender. What ever plant you grow, it is always fragrant.

Types of Basil

Anise basil
Camphor basil
Cinnamon basil                                           
Cuban basil
Dark opal basil
Genovese basil

Lemon basil
Lettuce leaf basil
Licorice basil
Mammoth basil
Red basil

Purple basil
Purple ruffles basil
Sweet basil
Spicy globe basil
Thai basil





Basil varies in color, leaf size and in fragrance and taste. You can find just about any kind of basil between locally available seeds, nursery stocks and specialty catalogs. Basil is very easy to grow. It grows quickly and vigorously be it inside on your windowsill or outside in your garden.

Basil Uses:

Basil is primarily a culinary herb. It is typical used as a fresh herb but can be used for its essential oils. Typically, basil is snipped and chopped and put right into the dish. The leaves can also be used whole in salads. Basil can be dried and used dried on fish, on meats, in pasta dishes and in sauces. I can also be dropped into a bottle of white vinegar to create a basil flavored vinegar for cooking and salads.

The strongest basil flavor is found in the leaves. You can cook the leaves. You can eat them raw. You can crush the leaves for the aroma, minced them for intense flavor or toss them on a plate as a garnish. The flowers are also edible and can also be used as a garnish as well.

Basil mixes well with other herbs. Garlic and basil make a great pesto. Add some lemon juice, oregano or time for a great taste. Butter, basil and lemon goes great on fish, lamb, veal or poultry. Basil, dill and butter do well together. Basil can be used in dozens of sauces. It can be minced up and added to your squashes and zucchini as a great summer vegetable dish.

Where and How to Grow Basil:
Basil can be grown in a designated herb garden, as part of your flower garden, as borders plants, on a deck in pots and containers, as plants in your hanging baskets and indoors on the windowsill. Basil will grow anywhere as long as it is warm.

Basil does not need a lot of soil or root growing room. It is fast growing annual plant. That is, it grows quickly and sets seeds. Once it sets seeds, energy production to the leaves is stopped and the plant typically loses its culinary value. Basil will even grow in a cup of water.

Basil can be bought as seeds or as plants. You will want to plant basil every 2 to 3 weeks in the garden from seed. This will supply your household with basil all summer long. I mentioned it grows very quickly and aims to set flowers to seed. Pinch the flowers off as soon as the buds appear. This will keep the leaves growing longer. Eventually the plant leaves will lose flavor but that should be about the time your other basil plants mature.

Basil plants from a nursery are great to tuck into containers and pots or to grow on your window sill. When you plant seeds, just follow the seed packets. Basil grows that easily. Just keep them watered and before you know it you will have basil plants cropping up all over the garden. When you grow plants or seeds in containers, make sure the pots and containers have holes. Although you can grow basil in a clean cup of water, they don’t do well in soggy soil.

Picking and Storing Basil:

Start picking basil when the plant is about a foot tall. Regular picking of the leaves will promote more leaf growth. You can pick selected leaves as it is maturing up to size, just don’t over pick the leaves. Once the plant is 10 -12 inches tall you can not do much harm from heavy cultivation.

Refrigerate and wrap the basil leaves in damp paper towels inside a plastic bag. They can last 3-4 days that way. You can pick a stem and place it in a cup of water and in can last 5-7 days that way. If you are making pestos and sauces, you can freeze basil since it will be used in mince formed. Basil can also be dried and stored till next growing season in a cool dark place.


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