Basil belongs to the mint family and becomes one of the lightest herbs to grow indoors and outdoors. It is popularly for culinary uses. The strong taste of the leaves relates to Mediterranean and Italian cuisines, even though this plant is native to India.
Instead of buying small packets of basils, it is better to grow them in your garden. Learn more about how to cultivate this plant from the following guide. This article also presents some tasty recipes, so you can grab a handful of fresh herbs to make flavorful meals every day.
Basil Plant Identification
Ocimum basilicum is the botanical name of basil. This plant is either an annual or a perennial herb that grows about 61 centimeters tall. The smooth leaves form many ripples. Meanwhile, their colors are green and deep purple. The negligible flowers might attract the bees.
The most popular variety is sweet basil. It has sleek leaves with white flower spikes. Likewise, other types include purple, lemon, and Thai. Each variant serves different flavors such as lemony-mint, licorice, and cinnamon. Those cultivars grow readily in the summer season.
Smart Tips on Growing Basil
For growing indoors, use some individual containers to plant small herbs. The best time to keep them inside the house is during winter. Get the potted basils from cutting off young stems in the garden. Before potting, let the shoots in the water to develop roots.
As the summer season comes, the ground is getting warm and ready to grow basil outdoors. Choose full sun areas that enriched with manure, compost, and any organic matter. Mulch and water the ground to keep the soil moisture.
Prune the tip of the shoots to encourage the fully growth. Besides, put out the flower heads to help the basil develop its foliage. Then, add plant spacing at about 46 cm for combining with large-leaved vegetables. Small-leaved varieties can grow alongside these aromatic herbs at a distance of 30 cm.
In the last spring, you can start keeping the seeds indoors for about six weeks. After that, make sure the soil has a temperature of 21 degrees Celsius to plant outdoors. The planting area should be well prepared with heat or warm conditions for the best growth.
Before starting the cultivation, prepare the proper location that allows the full sun to expose. The place should get at least 8 hours of sunlight. Keep the well-drained soil in proper humidity by adding mulch on the surface.
To provide good drainage, utilize raised beds or containers. If you grow basil for cooking, do not use insecticides and other chemical substances, but organic only. Do not plant along the driveway to prevent the herbs from any dust, vapor, or odors from the engine.
Firstly, grow the seedlings about 0.6 cm deep with a spacing of about 30 centimeters apart. Keep the distance farther for some large varieties. Add companions such as tomatoes and lettuce leaves in the garden.
Keep watering regularly, especially in the dry season. Wait until the first six leaves come out from the stem, then pick off the second set of new shoots to create more branches and develop foliage.
Importantly, prune repeatedly when each branch has developed six leaves. The flowers often grow about six weeks later, so remove them. Moreover, you can cut off the shoot in the middle to avoid initial blooming. Be aware of cold temperatures that will kill the herbs, harvest them immediately.
Pests and Diseases
Basil plants experience fungal and bacterial infestation that can damage the stems, leaves, and roots. Besides, aphids are the common pests that infect these herbs. Powdery mildew also happens to the herbs. Therefore, handpick the infected parts to solve the problems.
Harvest and Storage
You can start harvesting the basil leaves after the plant grows about 20 centimeters tall. At a temperature of 27 degrees Celsius, the herbs begin to leaf out. It is recommended to gather the crops in the morning since they become succulent at that time.
Make a schedule for regular harvesting during the summer season to stimulate growth. Keep picking the basil plant, although you do not need for cooking. The herbs can be stored for later use. Due to a routine harvest, basil can yield around 72 oz of leaves every week.
Furthermore, if you obtain abundant basil crops, proper storage will be essential. The best way is by keeping the herbs in the freezer. Freezing is an effective method to keep the flavor fresh. Use a zip-lock plastic bag to store some loose bunches.
Moreover, you can keep purees of basil frozen. After washing the leaves, put them into a blender or food processor with some water to get the desired texture of the herb paste.
Then, make some cubes from the paste by freezing in ice-cubed trays. The next step is storing the frozen basil in a plastic bag. The puree can be mixed with grated cheese, garlic, and olive oil. This combination becomes a pesto that can be kept for a longer time in the freezer.
Instead of freezing, keep in the form of air-dried basil. Unfortunately, this process will lose some flavors. To make drying herbs, cut the leaves from the stem and place them in a shaded area with the right ventilation. They will completely turn dry in four days. Besides, to dry the plant more quickly, use an oven with the minimum heat, and keep it open. Turn to the other side for equal drying results.
Basil Benefit and Nutrition
Basil is not only giving a taste in cooking but also containing nutrients that offer health benefits. Holy or tulsi variety functions as Ayurvedic and Tamil medicinal therapy in Southeast Asia.
Then, the sweet basil has minerals, vitamins, calcium, and antioxidants. It contains a high amount of eugenol. This chemical agent produces a clove-like aroma to this variety. Get the medicinal use in the form of essential oil.
The cultivar sweet Dani is rich in limonene that gives the herbs a citrusy fragrant. This component also has antioxidant properties that can remove free radicals in the body.
The free radicals become the result of a daily diet and smoking activity. Their unstable molecules can be eliminated by the antioxidant properties. Therefore, oxidative stress will decrease and prevent any diseases.
Additionally, basil extracts that applied to the skin can increase hydration and remove wrinkles and roughness. However, direct consuming the fresh herb will not obtain this benefit. It will give protection from the antioxidants to people who include this plant to their daily diet.
Meanwhile, the antioxidants in tulsi basil give a remedial effect on liver health. Thus, this variety functions as Indian traditional medicine. The holy cultivar can heal and prevent liver, lung, and skin cancer.
Moreover, the herbs are beneficial for reducing inflammation, high blood sugar, and swelling. They also help to prevent memory loss, improve sleep quality, relieve stress, and depression. Their antimicrobial agents are used to fight against some bacterial infections.
These aromatic plants work well with Italian and Asian foods. You can make a salad that consists of basil with some slices of tomatoes and mozzarella. Then, add olive oil as dressing. Other daily uses of the herbs are pasta, sauces, soups, toast garnishing, and ice cream or pizza toppings.
The following recipes are some more ideas to start cooking with this herb. Enjoy them as appetizers, main courses, desserts, or snacks.
Avocado Summer Rolls
These vegetable rolls are one of the simple recipes for an appetizer. Dip in creamy coconut sauce with basil. For the fillings, prepare the avocado, cucumber, tofu, noodles, peaches, and radishes.
Arrange some slices of these ingredients on a wrapper and add a few basil leaves. Do not overstuff for easy wrapping. After that, make the dipping sauce with coconut milk, cilantro, jalapeno, lime, and cashew butter to give a creamy texture.
One-Pot Penne Pasta
This vegetarian recipe becomes a perfect meal on weeknights. The ingredients consist of brown rice penne pasta, tomatoes, lemon, zucchini, red pepper, leeks, garlic, hempseed, and oregano flakes.
Chop all ingredients before putting them in a large pot. Add 0.5 liters of water and bring to a boil for 8 minutes. Then, remove it from the heat after the pasta becomes tender, and the sauce thickens. Add Parmesan, oregano flakes, and hempseed for toppings.
Enjoy a sweet combo of berries and this herb on this pizza recipe. The tangy snack has a great chewy texture with simple materials.
You can purchase or make the dough. Stretch it and brush with olive oil. After arranging mozzarella cheese and blackberries, bake for several minutes. For the final addition, pile lots of the herbs on the pizza. Finally, serve the snack with a cup of tea.
Mango Ginger Rice Bowl
Here is a ready-to-go meal that offers a great taste. It is a burrito bowl with Asian flavors. You only need chopped mangos, snap peas, shredded cabbage, some slices of cucumbers, and carrots.
First, fill a large bowl with rice and assemble the fresh vegetables on it. Add sliced basil, ginger, toasted peanuts, and sesame seeds to give pops of taste. Serve with tamari lime sauce for dressing.
In conclusion, this article has presented some smart tips for an effortless growing basil plant. We hope that you can succeed in cultivating this aromatic herb. Do not forget to try our best recipes above after harvesting your first leaves.