Basil Basics

If you haven’t started to grow basil in your garden or on your deck, what are you waiting for? Basil is an easy plant to grow, with its only major requirements being full sun and consistent water. Its delicious flavor will make it the most useful herb in your summer kitchen.

Some Basics:

  • Plant in rich soil in full sun
  • Water, fertilize and prune plants on a regular basis
  • Don’t let the plant flower (for the best flavor)
  • Prune every four weeks (or sooner if they show signs of getting ready to flower) just above the bottom two sets of leaves

Immediately after planting, prune your basils by cutting them back to just above the bottom two sets of leaves. What?! This early pruning may seem drastic, but it actually stimulates growth. Match the basil variety to its use. Basils come in all shapes and sizes, but which one you choose will depend on how you’ll use it in the kitchen.

Pesto basils: some types include ‘Genovese’, ‘Italian Pesto’, ‘Profuma di Genova’. The best option for making pesto, these varieties are aromatic, full of flavor, and vigorous growers. They have a lovely scent—a balance of citrus oil, licorice, cinnamon, spice and mint.

Lemon basils: some types include ‘Mrs. Burns’, ‘Sweet Dani’. Lemon basils are good in vinaigrettes, especially with vegetables and seafood, but they shine in beverages and desserts, too.

Lettuce leaf basils: some types include ‘Napoletano’, ‘Lettuce Leaf’, ‘Mammoth’. Characterized by huge leaves (5 to 6 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide) these varieties are perfect for sandwiches and salads. Their flavor includes notes of mint, anise and citrus.

Culinary Tip: Store fresh herbs in ice cube trays. A great way to store herbs like basil, parsley, chives and cilantro is to freeze them; quick and easy to do.

  • Pick fresh leaves off the stems, then wash and dry them
  • Get an empty ice cube tray and place as many leaves as you can into each cube slot
  • Add water, pushing the herbs down when they begin to float; place the tray in the freezer
  • Take the cubes out once they are frozen, and put them in a plastic freezer bag; they’ll keep in your freezer for up to a year
  • Use in soups, sauces or stews; just pop a few cubes into the pot and stir!