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Basil

Ocimium basilicum

Basil would have to be one of the most popular herbs we sell - customers are looking for plants all year round; but unfortunately Basil needs warm weather to thrive, so it's best grown over Spring/Summer here in Perth.  

You can grow Basil in pots/planters or in the ground - there's always somewhere you can squeeze in a plant or two!  Basil is available in many forms; there are some very attractive frilly leafed varieties and red/purple tingled leaves too - so why not grow a couple and add some variety to your summer salads.  Most Basil - and traditional Sweet Basil - is grown as an annual from Spring through to Autumn.

While you really do need to grow most Basil in the warmer months, there are a couple of types of perennial Basil you can plant in the cooler weather - the taste is different to traditional Basil; but it makes (in my opinion anyway) an acceptable substitute during the winter months.  Perennial basil can grow up to 1 - 1.5m high & wide, but it can be grown in large pots/planters.  It flowers prolifically for many months of the year, and as such is a fabulous plant for attracting bees and other pollinating insects to your garden.  Grow it around your vegies & fruit trees for assistance with pollination.  You can trim back the plants anytime if you need to keep the size manageable, or to keep the plant in a nice, compact shape (although this will obviously set back the flowering).  Plants will last 3 - 5 years - and you can grow new ones from cuttings; best done in the warmer months. 

Basil is a native of India, South Asia and the Middle East, and is found growing well in tropical and sub tropical regions.

Basil has it’s place in the folklore of many cultures. The French call basil ‘herb royale’, Italians say it is a sign of love and romance. In Europe and India they place basil in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey into the afterlife. In Romania , when a man accepts a sprig of Basil from a woman, he is officially engaged! No matter what country, the consensus is that Basil is royalty amongst herbs.

Basil likes a fertile soil with full sun to part shade. It can only tolerate very light frost (anything more will burn the plant – probably fatally!). The more you feed basil the bigger the leaves become. Underfed basil is less fragrant.  It will benefit from a liquid feed every 2 - 4 weeks.

Basil can be grown from seed and cuttings. Once established, pinch out the tips to encourage bushier growth. Removing flower heads will also encourage more leaf growth. Basil is a great companion plant for tomatoes.

Stems and the lower woody part of the plant can be used medicinally as an antispasmodic and is also good for flatulence and indigestion. A tea made from basil leaves in a cup of boiling water is a good mouth wash for sore gums. Place a basil leaf over a mouth ulcer and keep it there for as long as possible to soothe pain. Basil leaves and flowers in the bath are very refreshing.

Basil leaves can be preserved by drying, freezing, or making a Pesto sauce which can also be frozen.

Basil is delicious sprinkled over freshly sliced tomato, and gives a salad extra zing!

 

Basic Pesto Sauce

  • 1 - 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup pine nuts (or substitute with any other nut, sunflower seeds, pepitas, etc.)
  • ¾ cup parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup olive oil

Blend basil leaves in a blender. Add garlic and olive oil, process for a few seconds. Gradually add pine nuts, parmesan cheese and salt. The consistency should be thick and creamy. Mix through around 400 – 500gm of cooked and drained pasta. Enjoy!

To preserve Basil by drying:

  • Pick basil leaves removing all stems. Tear by hand into smaller pieces
  • Lay the basil leaves on baking paper on a tray and place in a 180°c oven.
  • Bake until crumbly (not brown) – usually 7 – 10 minutes.
  • Once the basil has cooled, crumble it with your hands to refine. If finer pieces are required, press through a sieve. Store in an airtight container. 2 large bunches of fresh basil will make approx. 2/ 3 of a cup of dried leaves.

Fresh basil can also be frozen. Wrap small parcels of leaves in plastic and keep in a freezer bag. When required, remove each parcel from plastic, chop while frozen and add to your recipe immediately.

Important tip – wash and thoroughly dry basil leaves before preserving.  It is important that leaves are totally dry.



Resources for Growing Organic Veggies & Herbs:


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