If you have ever cooked Italian food, you are probably familiar with the wonderful scent of basil. Whether it is fresh or dried, basil is a multipurpose herb that is easy to grow. Most people are more familiar with sweet basil than any other variety.
It’s such an easy plant to grow that you will kick yourself for not trying it. It is an herb that needs 6-8 hours of sunlight each day and this amount of sun can usually be found in a windowsill. Basil grows well when potted indoors but has a very pungent smell as it flowers.
The best way to grow basil is to clear a small square of earth outdoors. Outside your backdoor is a great place because you can smell the scent of basil every time you brush by the leafy stems. You should clear the earth, turn, and prepare the soil as you would for any planting, and remove any grass and weeds that are already growing.
Completely removing the grass by shoveling under it and lifting it up will help to prevent weeds from taking over your garden later on. The best soil pH for growing basil is 6.0-8.0. If you are concerned about the pH of your soil, you can take a sample to your local agricultural extension service for testing. Or you can just give it a shot without testing. If your soil has the wrong acidity level, you have not lost much.
To sow the seeds, you should level the soil and then draw shallow trenches with your finger or a stick. The trench should be about a quarter of an inch deep. Be sure to sow the seeds after your weatherman has predicted the last spring frost. Place the seeds in the trench about 2 inches apart, and cover them with about one-half inch of soil, lightly. The seeds should germinate in about 7 days.
When the plants are about 4 inches tall, you should thin the seedlings by removing the extras, leaving a space of 6 inches between plants. Basil tends to be a bushy plant so it needs room to grow on the sides. You can transplant the extra seedlings to other garden spots, or bring a small planting indoors at this time.
As the plant begins to grow leaves, you can snip the leaves and use them in your culinary masterpieces. Frequent clippings will encourage growth. Clippings can be used freshly chopped, dried or frozen. One of the best ways to preserve fresh basil is to press it into an ice tray, fill the trays with water and freeze.
After the water has formed ice cubes, you can crack the ice cubes and place them in a zippered bag in the freezer. You can then drop them in stews, soups, and use them in creative other ways.
Basil is fantastic when used in sauces, soups, tomato dishes, and fish. It also goes well with chicken and can be used as a garnish for salads. And don’t forget about pesto. There is nothing better than freshly-made pesto. It’s much better than the jarred stuff that you can buy from your grocer.