Seed starting, growing and storing Basil
Perfect for Pesto
Start from seed for best selection
Basil seed starting
Sometimes called sweet basil or garden basil, (Ocimum basilicum) is an annual herb that thrives in my Zone 6 garden. These tiny seed are easy to start.
Start with well moistened germinating mix or seed starting medium and a shallow container made of plastic, wood,styrofoam. Begin with clean container and healthy soil.
Select a container at least 2 inches deep. Egg cartons and empty eggshells are not a good choice. Developing the seedling roots need more depth.
Drop one or two seeds in each seed starting cell, about 1/8th inch deep. Cover and gently firm seed into germinating mix. Next cover the containers with a protective lid or with clear plastic to prevent moisture loss. Wait 7 to 14 days for germination of most basil seed.
Remove extra seedlings, leaving only 1 plant. The best way to remove 1 plant where 2 have come up, clip one at soil level. This will avoid disturbing or damaging the roots of the remaining plant.
After germination occurs, loosen or remove the clear plastic to improve circulation and prevent damping off and soil borne disease. Transplant seedlings to individual containers or cells in a week or 10 days.
Continue to water seedlings when the soil is dry to the touch. Take care not to over water. Keep seedlings away from cold windows or cold drafts. Basil is not cold tolerant.
Growing basil at home
Midseason gardening tips to boost herb productivity.
Summer is when sun loving basil is most productive. Continue to pinch or clip back basil to increase leaf production. Use the fresh leaves to make pesto, add to pasta dishes or in green salads.
Plant Care - Keep the plants well watered, but not in wet soil. Fertilizer may only be necessary in containers. If plants are actively growing and producing rich green leaves, omit the fertilizer.
Take cuttings to multiply basil plants. Pinching or cutting basil will result in a bushier parent plants. Put cuttings in water, removing all lower leaves that will be submerged. In a few days you will see tiny roots beginning to grow. (This pinching method is the same as for mint or coleus.)
Collecting and preserving basil - To me, there is no point in growing tomatoes if you don't grow basil. Most classic tomato dishes also call for basil: Bruschetta, Pasta Sauces, Insalada Caprese.
Try making a small test batch of pesto with each different basil variety. For example, I will make traditional Italian pesto with a large leaf basil. I also make lemon pesto with Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil.
Continue to pinch off buds and keep the basil from flowering. Or, to make seed, let the basil flower. Collecting seed from the plants that thrive in my garden is not only frugal but fun.
Thai Basil, "Queenette"
Your home grown variety
Developing your own basil
Saving Seed - Once a herb plant begins making flowers it will then make seed. It's days are numbered. Now the only purpose of the plant is to reproduce.
Start with a non hybrid, or hierloom basil the first year. Each year collect seed from your own plants.
Basil seed are tiny. Collect seed by gently shaking the plant over a sheet or newspaper. Allow seed to dry in open air for a few days. Save in a cool dry location.
Snack size ziplock bags or small envelopes are good for storage. Label bags or envelopes. Or, save in a small airtight container like a pill bottle or herb jar.
As you grow basil seed into plants and eventually collect seed every year, in the unique conditions of your region and garden, developing a unique variety. Select your best plants and save their seed.
Favorite uses for basil
Basil tea - Basil is a good source of antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. Make basil tea if you have a nervous stomach. Add a few leaves to a cup, then pour in very hot water. Let steep for ten minutes. Discard leaves. Sweeten if you like.
Pesto - Best used fresh. Use it now, freely experiment while you have lots of fresh leaves. To season a dish with basil or pesto, add it in the final cooking stage or just before serving. If freezing pesto, omit the cheese. Add Parmesan later, when you use the pesto. It adds a freshness to the pesto.
Salads - Caprese Salad Stacks. Slice mozzarella and tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, salt if desired. Layer tomato, whole or shredded basil leaves and top with a slice of cheese. Lightly drizzle with, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add another layer of tomato, basil and cheese. Use only a little oil and balsamic vinegar.
Basil Mojitos - Replace mojito mint with basil in the traditional mojito recipe.
Tai Basil - Substitute for mint in iced tea.
Lemon Basil - Try it in iced tea instead of a lemon slice.
You may also like : How to Preserve Basil: 5 Ways
Basil loves tomatoes
Tomatoes love basil and basil loves tomatoes. Growing together increases the vigor and flavor of both the tomatoes and basil.
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