Summer is on its way when we start talking about Basil. It’s one of those herbs that is all about summer, when we break it over those fresh, warm, sweet tomatoes straight out of the garden adding a sprinkle of olive oil, delicious!
Basil has such a distinct flavour and it is Genovese that we are all most familiar with, with its large green leaves and sweet but slightly spicy aroma. The more we rub it or break it then more of those volatile oils come out.
When growing basil, be aware that it does not like the cold for fluctuating temperatures, so make sure that especially the night temperatures have settled otherwise your basil won’t do well.
When I sow my basil, I have my punnet filled with seed raising mix or just fine potting which I water first before sprinkling the seeds on top and then just give the seeds a light covering with the mix, just like dusting a cake with icing sugar! Put them in a warm spot to shoot. To have continuous basil, keep sowing seeds every few weeks.
Once the seedling have come through I then just pop them up individually until they are a little bigger before planting out. What ever you do, don’t let them dry out. Once you have planted them out and they are doing well, I pick out the tops of the young plants as this helps them to bush out as you don’t want them flowering at this point.
Just like the seeds keep watering them, if they don’t get enough water, the plant get stressed and will go to seed.
There are so many different varieties available you are spoilt for choice. My favourites are Sweet Genovese, my favourite and traditional basil for pesto, Red or Dark Opal for that deep purple foliage, Thai Basil, great for cooking Thai dishes with its very sweet anise aroma and taste and Mrs Burns Lemon Basil with its very lemony flavour.
Basil can be used in many dishes, from everyones favourite, pizza, to sauces, cakes, sorbets (I make a refreshing plum and basil sorbet), traditional bolanaise, chicken dishes, drinks, the list is endless.
Go grab a packet of seeds and give basil ago!