This wonderful warm weather fragnance herb gives great minty taste to Mediterranean dishes. Let’s just remember pesto! Below you can read a few tips about caring, harvesting and preserving basil.
The plant needs to get 6 to 8 hours of full sun daily, and soil should be moist and well-drained. It is very important to water the plant freely during summer because basil likes moisture.
If bad weather is announced, harvest the plant before that because cold will destroy the plant.
Flower heads need to be pinched as soon as they appear so that leaves can continue growing.
Extra tip – it’s an old gardening practice to plant tomatoes and basil together in the garden because basil repels the insects and it is also thought that it improves the flavor of tomatoes.
Leaves should be picked as soon as the plant is 15-20 cm tall (6-8 inches). Even if you don’t need them, it is better to pick them to keep the plant going. You can freeze them, if you don’t know what to do with them.
If you want to harvest a larger amount, pick the leaves from the top down, cutting back up to a third of the total plant height. It is better to cut right above a leaf pair rather than leaving a stub. The plant will be ready for next harvest in two or three weeks.
When picked regularly, three plants should produce on average 1-1.5 cup of leaves a week.
At the end of the season, before the first frost, steams should be cut to the ground, and all leaves picked.
How to Store Basil
Freezing is the best method to store the leaves, because by freezing the plant doesn’t lose any of its flavors. You just dry the leaves, put them in airtight plastic bags and freeze them.
Drying basil is another way to store it. It is the oldest form of preservation in the world, but when dried basil loses some of it’s flavor.
You just need to pinch the leaves and store them in a dry well-ventilated and shady place. The plan should be dry after 3-4 days, and if it’s not you can put it in the oven on the lowest heat with oven doors slightly open. The leaves should be turned so that both sides dry equally. You can also skip air drying and put the leaves in the oven from start. Once dried, transfer the leaves to glass jars and use them in soups, salads, eggs or dips. This way plant loses some color but it tastes fine.
How to Use Basil
Most popular dish made with fresh basil is of course pesto but you can also ads fresh chopped basil leaves to pasta, salads, oils and vinegars, sandwiches and wraps, marinades. Here is a good recipe for pesto if you wanna try yourself.
Dried basil can be added to practicaly any dish.
You can also try basil tea (with fresh or dried basil) that helps digestion after a meal.
There are many different types of basil like sweet basil, genovese basil or basil napoletano, so you can choose which one to grow.
If I still didn’t convince you to plant basil there’s one more thing – it keeps mosquitos away! 🙂