Newest Review: ... be planted outside from June. The leaves can be collected from about July until September. Basil is an annual. Why grow it? ***********... more
How to grow basil
Member Name: clairestevens
Basil originates from India and is considered sacred. Nowadays it grows wild throughout the Mediterranean, and is widely used in Mediterranean cooking. It is also widely used in our house - my husband and I eat loads of Italian food so we use it quite a bit in our house!
A packet of basil costs about 70p from the supermarket and only contains enough to use in one or two meals. One the other hand, it's really easy to grow at home and for about a pound for a packet of seeds you could be getting lovely fresh basil all year round.
There are two ways of growing basil at home. The first is to grow it on a windowsill in a pot. Choose a pot about 15cm in diameter and fill with a good multi-purpose compost. Wet the compost with warm water and sprinkle on about twenty basil seeds. Cover with a few millimeters of compost and place on your window sill. Basil takes a couple of weeks to germinate and once it does thin your seedlings out so you have six or seven in your pot.
Once the seedlings have grown about 12cm tall, you can start harvesting the leaves - pinch out the tip to encourage more bushy growth. Basil is fairly unfussy, but dislikes water on it's leaves or stems, so water from the bottom.
To grow outdoors, either in a container or in the open soil, choose a sunny position, or one with partial shade and a patch that has not been composted recently. Sow seeds a few millimeters deep and then thin once germinated. Basil plants are more likely to flower outdoors, so pinch out the tips once the plants are established to prevent this from happening as it can detract from the flavour of the leaves. Stagger your sowings of basil to get a continuous supply throughout the summer and into autumn.
If you don't want to wait for basil to germinate, try planting one of the pot of basil you can get from the supermarket outside in a sunny position. I did this one year and it went beserk!
Although basil is a perennial, it only really works as an annual in the UK (unless you grow it indoors). To ensure a supply throughout the winter, harvest the leaves and put them in a small plastic bag in the freezer. They will keep for about six months this way. Alternatively, store them in a jar, covered in olive oil. Again, they will keep for about six months and you have the added bonus of basil-infused olive oil to use at the end!
My favourite recipe for using up a glut of basil is pesto sauce. simply whizz up 100g of basil, 100g toasted pine nuts, 25g parmesam cheese and 25ml olive oil in a food processor. This will keep in sterilised jars in the fridge for a month.
The most common varity of basil is sweet basil, but other fun varities to try are lemon basil (great when used in fish dishes), cinnamon basil (good for curries) and purple basil (looks great in leafy salads).
Summary: Definitely worth a try if you like Mediterranean cooking