Overview: Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an herbaceous plant that is known for its uses in Italian cuisine. The bright green plant is best used fresh or dried.
Seed starting: Basil seeds should be planted in temperatures from 60 Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Three to four weeks before the planting time one can start the process indoors. In a tray or pot place your seeds. If using a pot place 4 to 6 seeds and once the first set of leaves sprout, then thin each pot out with 1-2 seeds in each (Source: Gardener’s Supply Company). It is important that the soil is not dry but doesn’t receive too much water at once. Once it is time to plant it is best for basil to be planted in a rose bed with compost as the soil. In addition, when planting it is important to space each one 12-18 inches apart so the leaves can fully spread out (Source: Bonnie Plants).
Growing advice: Basil thrives in the sun needing 6 to 8 hours every day! Meaning they need to be watered regularly to make sure the soil is continuously moist, rich, and well drained. Though not necessary it is smart to annually test the soil with the goal of a 6 to 7 PH (Source: Bonnie Plants). If there are possible days of cold weather, it is important to cover the plants because of their sensitivity to cold.
Harvesting Advice: Once the plant has grown to a height of 6-8 inches it is ready to harvest. Pinch the leaves from the tips of the stem (Source: Bonnie Plants). This encourages the plant to grow more leaves. If there is any frost on the plant, then cut the plant out of the ground and pick all the leaves left. If it does frost that could mean two things. One you didn’t cover the plant during a cold night/day or that fall is approaching. There are three different ways to store basil. One is to freeze the leaves to use them later on. Second is to dry them but this form doesn’t keep the flavor as well. The third and final method is to preserve them in vinegar, so they last longer as fresh as possible (Source: Bonnie Plants).
Caprese Salad Recipe
Basil is not an ingredient that would be eaten by itself but is a major ingredient used in Italian food. (Originally found here). You will need the following:
- 3 vine-ripe tomatoes, ¼-inch thick slices
- 1-pound fresh mozzarella, ¼-inch thick slices
- 20 to 30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Coarse salt and pepper
On a large dish layer alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each. Drizzle the extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Written by Sarah Jane O’Connor