Summer Herb Series
Do me a favor: take the family/kids/sweetie/friend to your local nursery or garden center this week and buy 2-4 sweet basil plants. You’ll thanks me later this summer when you’re making the best pesto ever! Don’t worry, we’ll post the recipe later. You don’t need anything special and it’s not too late to start. No worries if you don’t have a “garden” or even a yard.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting a series of articles about what herbs you should be growing in your garden and how to care for them. Today we’ll be talking about Basil. Basil is a hearty herb that is an annual (you need to replant this one every year) and grows best in summer. Comment below with any herbs you'd like us to cover!
Where and How to Plant Basil
Location: Basil is a summer herb that loves full sun. If you’re planting Basil in the ground, make sure it’s in a sunny location (at least 6 hours of sun a day). If you don’t have a place to plant it in the ground, grab a pot and move it to a sunny spot. Your plant will grow up to 2' in height and will need around 8" of spacing between plants.
Seed or Plant: I typically buy the plants instead of starting from seed. My 120 year old home is just a little too chilly in the spring to start seedlings. But buying plants does have advantages and I seem to get more yield by purchasing healthy plants to start with.
Water: It’s important that Basil is well drained. If you plant Basil in a pot, make sure it has holes in the bottom so it will drain. If the roots of your plant stay too moist for extended periods, they’ll start to mildew and you may see spots beginning to appear on the leaves of your plant. At the same time, your Basil plant will need to stay moist. Since it will be in the sun all day and you will have well drained soil, you may have to water once a day. The soil should be moist but not drenched.
Growth: As the plant grows, pick individual leaves off the plant or snip off a whole stalk. I typically pick from the outside to allow it to continue growing out. To extend the life of the Basil plant, you need to pick off any places that begin to flower. Once the plant has flowered, you may find that the leaves have a more bitter taste to them. I’ll add a picture of this to our Instagram feed later this summer! You can use the stems in cooking, however they are quite strong. If I use them, I typically add them to a soup or olive oil to flavor it. Leave the stems long and they’ll be easy to take out of soup before serving. Your plants will last you all summer with these easy steps!
How to Use Basil in the Kitchen
One of my favorite uses for basil is homemade pesto. Later this summer, when you have tons of basil growing, we’ll post an easy pesto recipe!
Here are some daily use basil options:
- Top Italian themed dinners such as spaghetti, lasagna, pizza with freshly torn or whole leaf basil
- Add to homemade tomato sauce
- Top salads with a chiffonade of basil or mix in large pieces with your lettuce
- Add torn basil to scrambled eggs or whole leaves to a breakfast sandwich
- Freeze in water for pretty party ice
- Top seafood dishes with a squeeze of lemon and fresh basil
- Infuse your olive oil – place a few leaves or a stem or two in the oil you plan to use over the next few days to spread the flavor
- Chop your favorite veggies into large chunks. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper – broil until cooked and top with fresh basil
- Did we mention PESTO?