I’m obsessed by all things Mediterranean food since travelling to Crete last month. I’m in the process of writing all about my food adventures but in the mean time I’m trying to replicate (as challenging as that is in this UK climate) the most widely used herbs in cooking good food – today it’s the turn of sweet basil – one of the staple ingredients for all Mediterranean recipes.
Plus is there anything more delicious to smell than basil?
Quick basil facts:
- Thought to have originated from India over 5,000 years ago.
- It belongs to the mint family
- Unlike the majority of other herbs basil is in fact an annual plant. It has to re-seed to grow again.
- Basil has been used in Britain from the 16th Century.
- Is rich in vitamin A which is good for your eyes and sight
- Inhaling the scent of basil essential oil is said to help increase your brain’s production of beta waves which keeps you more aware.
How to Grow Basil from Seed:
Of course, you can buy basil in pots, fresh, from your local supermarket. But let me tell you now those pots are rubbish compared to the strong healthy – not to mention – longer lasting plants you can get if you do it yourself.
I know because I’ve bought enough of these pots in the past and regretted every single one. In fact, it was just this continued annoyance at wasting money that turned me to growing basil from seed in the first place. I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistake. Growing your own is by far the best way to go when it comes to this herb.
Basil is super easy to grow too:
- Seeds can be sown, if planting outside, between April and May. Indoors, seeds are best sown between March and August.
- Basil grows best in warm and sunny spot. Ideally at least 6 hours of sun per day.
- Two pots of basil will keep a family household in fresh basil-ness all summer. It doesn’t take up a lot of space.
- You don’t need to sow much seed. 4/5 seeds per pot and thin out when the plants are large enough if necessary.
- If sown indoors, harden the plants off in May before their final planting outside.
- Basil doesn’t mind if it’s soil gets dried out but don’t forget to water it completely!
- As the plant grows, begin pinching off the tops to encourage bushier growth. If the plant gets too leggy it will start to produce flower buds – don’t be afraid to cut these off to encourage more leafy growth.
- Or, leave the plant to flower and collect the seeds for use next year.
- To get even more green leaves, feed the plants tomato feed once or twice over the summer months.
- Pick the leaves off the plant fresh, when cooking, until the first frosts appear at which point the plant will begin to die.
- Or harvest the entire plant’s leaves for drying and freezing.
- To quick dry basil leaves – lay them flat on a piece of kitchen roll, place in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes. No longer otherwise they will scorch.
Basil is really easy to grow, which is why I’ll never buy fresh pots from the supermarket ever again.
Until next week Greenies…have a great big Green week 🙂
Question of the week:
Have you ever used Basil as an essential oil and if so, why?