Saturday, June 16, 2012

Growing Sweet Basil

Growing Sweet Basil


To grow Sweet Basil, daytime temperatures must be warm, but not too warm (around 75 to 90 degrees during the day), and the plants must get at least three to four hours of sunlight a day. Sweet Basil can be grown easily with filtered light (such as under a tree or next to a bright window indoors).

If it gets too hot, or too dry, or if the roots become pot bound, (or over crowded), the plant will begin its flowering process, which signals the end of its life. Once flowers are covering most of the plant, Basil rarely produces any more tasty leaves.

It is important to keep the soil moist and somewhat cool and to plant the Basil in a large pot; and to pinch off the flowers that begin to form as frequently as you can. Under perfect conditions, Basil plants can grow for up to 6 months in the ground, and up to four months in a pot.

Harvesting Basil

To harvest Basil, always cut the branches or tops of the Basil off of the stems, only about a third of the way down, at an intersection of new leaves. Harvesting in this manner prompts the plant to start growing its tiny new leaves into branches of more leaves.

Pulling leaves off the stem without cutting the branch back stunts its growth. Your plant will begin flowering and you will get no new leaf growth.  Once your plants start flowering, if they are left untrimmed, they will make seeds from the flowers and die soon after.

So, even if you are not ready to make pesto, prune your plants regularly, (you can store the leaves in the refrigerator for about a week or so, wrapped in a moist paper towel or chopped up with little olive oil over them), and your plants will be healthier and happier.

Basil Varieties

    Basil - Sweet Genovese is our best Italian, large-leaf variety of Sweet Basil. The flavor is far superior to other Sweet Basil varieties and the leaves grow up to 3" long and 2" wide. This Basil is used for pesto, pasta, and many Italian recipes, as well as American recipes. The plants grow to about 2' tall and up to 3' in diameter.

    Basil - Mammoth is a lettuce-leaf variety from Italy that grows leaves as large as your hand with a bit stronger flavor than Sweet Genovese. Its leaves are ruffled with jagged edges, and the plants normally grow to be about 18" tall. In addition to making an excellent pesto, Mammoth leaves can be used whole on a sandwich.

Basil - Lime    Lemon and Lime Basils are easy to grow, and they smell divine! They tend to flower heavily, but they will still produce lots of nice, usable leaves even when they flower. Use Lemon and Lime Basils in salads, dressings, and marinades or just for garnishing a plate.

    Basil - Opal or Red Rubin is a red leaf variety with the same flavor as Sweet Basil but with a touch more of a cinnamon taste. It grows the similar to Sweet Basil and can be used interchangeably. Opal Basil also makes a wonderful garnish or coloring for herb vinegars.
    Thai Basil has a strong licorice flavor, gorgeous purplish stems, and a cluster of flowers that are extremely fragrant. Use Thai Basil in any kind of Thai cooking or stir-fry. 

To use Basil in cooking, add chopped fresh leaves to anything and everything; there are no rules at all when it comes to basil.

 More growing tips are available on our website at

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