Basil – Garden Clippings for April 28, 2018

For Cheryl it’s Coriander and for me it’s Basil.  She can’t get enough of the first and I can’t get enough of the latter.  So, we grow both in a garden patch right outside the deck.

Basil is the go-to herb that has taken the place of mint as the top-ranking herb for Canadian gardeners.  No small wonder.  Basil is fantastic partnered with anything tomato.  It is the primary ingredient in pesto, and can be added to seafood, steak, burgers, and anything Italian.  I say it is imperative on pizza.

Basil can grow both indoors and out.  if you grow it indoors through winter, give it as much light as possible.  For indoor growing, consider planting new seeds every month or so to keep a fresh supply from December to April.

For growing indoors, plant a few seeds in a 4 or 5-inch growers pot filled with a soilless potting mix.  Like most herbs, basil does not need wonderful rich soil.  After you’ve sown the seeds, they will take their time sprouting, almost two weeks.  If the soil is warm, they will sprout quicker.  Harvest leaves as soon as they are ready.  The more Basil is pruned, the better it will grow into a fuller, bushier plant.  Beware of letting the soil dry out.  I cannot count the times we have left for a few days away only to come home to a shrivelled Basil plant on the windowsill.

As soon as weather warms up and the danger of frost is past, plant Basil outdoors.  Just a few Basil plants will provide a fair amount of leaves.  Plant Basil in a spot that receives full sun.

For planting Basil outdoors, start seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the frost-free date which for Sarnia Lambton is the Victoria Day weekend.  Plant a few seeds in a 4-inch pot and provide a warm spot so they sprout quickly.  While growing indoors, bring the containers outside periodically during warm weather to strengthen with fresh air.

Basil is the perfect companion plant for tomatoes because they enjoy the same growing conditions.  Basil has some built-in natural pesticide properties that will benefit neighbouring plants.

Harvest Basil leaves often to encourage a strong bushy plant.  Use immediately to take advantage of the best flavour.

Try using fresh Basil is in a butter spread.  Use about half a cup of soft butter, ¼ cup finely chopped Basil, one clove finely minced garlic, ½ teaspoon lemon or lime zest, and ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper.  Blend it all together and use as a spread on sliced French bread.  Modify the ingredients to suit your own desires.

If starting Basil from seed, I recommend experimenting with a few varieties.  ‘Dark Opal’ is an attractive variety that doubles up as an ornamental plant with purplish bronze foliage.  ‘Sweet Basil’ is an heirloom variety that will always be most popular.  ‘Siam Queen’ (Thai) is a beautiful highly aromatic plant with a hint of licorice flavour.  It is a favorite in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.  ‘Spicy Globe’ is a compact grower with small leaves forming a dense mound.  Lemon Basil, ‘Sweet Dani’ is a robust grower with distinctive lemon scent.