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
A very royal affair
Member Name: anwar7
Advantages: lots of uses, wonderful scent
Disadvantages: can be hard to grow
I love cooking and use lots of fresh herbs in my dishes. I grow many in my garden, but trying to grow Basil outside has eluded me! As it I also one of my favourite herbs and probably the one I use most often, I am never without a few pots on my kitchen window sill. There are several different types of Basil including lemon basil, Holy basil and probably the most commonly know and the one I grown, bush basil also known as sweet basil.
As I have already indicated I find it really difficult to grow basil (or ocimum basilicum to give it its Latin name) outside. This is probably due to the fact I live in the far north of England where the weather is probably too cold. However I have grown basil plants from seed and cuttings. Growing from seed is fairly easy. Simply fill a pot with compost and sprinkle about a dozen seeds thinly then cover with compost and leave in a warm, sunny spot. You will need to water often but don't over water. I also feed my plants with a liquid feed that I get from my local nursery. Once the plants are established you will need to pinch out the tops and remove any flowers to encourage growth.
It is also easy to grow basil from a cutting. Take a long neck plastic bottle and half fill with tepid water. Take about a 6 inch piece from another plant and then remove the lower leaves and branches. Put the stem into the bottle and keep the water level topped up. Roots should appear after a few weeks. The new plant can then be transferred in a pot. Plants can be transferred outside once there is no risk of frost. They will need a sunny, sheltered spot and will need to be watered regularly. It is generally recommended that basil be planted outside from June. The leaves can be collected from about July until September. Basil is an annual.
Why grow it?
The name basil comes from ancient Greek meaning royal. It is a very attractive plant with dark green glossy leaves. A mature plant will grow up to 18 inches in height and produce tiny white or purple flowers. It also has really strong fragrant leaves. I love the scent that fills my kitchen when I move one of the pots, it really reminds me of the Mediterranean where basil grows freely in the hills of Provence. If you grow basil inside then a plant could last you for a couple of years if you take care of it. I find my plants only last about 6 months before the leaves start to become tinged with brown. You can of course buy dried basil, although I don't think it is anywhere near as good as the fresh form. I like to pick my basil leaves as I need them, but they can be wrapped in damp kitchen paper and kept in a fridge for several days.
Basil grown outside will help to deter insects especially mosquitoes and aphids. Its leaves can also be used to give relief from stings or bites. Simply rub a leaf (best if you chew on it first!) into the area affected. Like many herbs basil is also a powerhouse of Vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A, B6, K and C. It also contains calcium, Iron, potassium and magnesium. We have recently been told that many common bacterial infections such as stapylococcus are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Basil contains oil that is known to help protect against harmful bacteria growth. I use basil with salad and as raw food can cause food poisoning, it is reassuring to know that the addition of this little herb can offer us some protection!
Basil leaves can be added to boiling water and the stream inhaled. This is said to help relief a headache although I have not tried the remedy myself. You can use either dried or fresh leaves.
Eating Basil can also help with heart health due to its high magnesium content and helps to combat free radicals found in the environment. Basil leaves can be soaked in boiling water to make a tea that is good for digestive problems. The Italians say basil is a symbol of love and I can see why!
Its uses in cooking.
This is probably why most people grow basil. It goes with numerous foods but is especially good with tomato based dishes. I like to use basil leaves to make simple tomato and mozzarella salad at the weekend. Served with a green salad and some warm crusty bread and cheese it is a family favourite. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over just before serving to really bring out the flavours.
I make my own pesto sauce as it is not only cheaper than the shop bought version, but also tastes a lot better. I tend to guess the quantities but I use roughly 2 cups of basil leaves, ¼ of a cup of olive oil and a half cup of pine nuts plus 2 cloves of garlic. Blitz the nuts, basil leaves and garlic in a food processor ( or with a pestle and mortar ) Next gradually add the olive oil. You can also add parmesan cheese just before serving. The pesto sauce can be frozen if you have too much. I serve with pasta but also use it to coat fish before baking.
I always throw in a handful of fresh basil leaves at the end of cooking any tomato based sauce as it give a lovely flavour. You can use the leaves whole or tear them a little if you prefer. I also use Basil in homemade soups especially tomato.
Overall Basil is another herb that I wouldn't be without. Although it does need a bit more TLC than other herbs I grow, I think it more than compensates me for my efforts!