Basil is an warm season annual soft stem herb, with a lifecycle of around 3 months.  There are interesting varieties that are used in both European and Asian style dishes.  It also reputed to have medicinal properties to relieve the symptoms of travel sickness, and can be taken as a tea.  The information here refers specifically to the basil commonly known as Sweet Basil, with the glossy green leaves.

Growing Basil

Best grown in a sunny and free draining spot, .  though it will perform well in semi-shade.  If you find that Basil is bolting into flower and therefore having a short growing cycle, try growing under a tunnel of 50 percent white shade cloth for better results. Basil is a well known companion plant for tomatoes where it is reputed to reduce pests such as whitefly.

Pinch out the growing tips and remove flower spikes as they appear to encourage side growth and bushy development.

Harvesting Basil

The leaves are best while still small, and regular tip pruning will provide the best leaves – so pick as needed.  Leaves can be dried and stored, or frozen in snap-lock plastic bags.

Using Basil in the Kitchen

Tomato and basil are the perfect flavour match, shred leaves over a simple tomato salad or on top of Bruschetta.  Add to simple pasta dishes for a flavour boost, sprinkle chopped leaves over the top just before serving so that they barely wilt rather than cook through.  Basil pesto is a great way to preserve the summer flavours for use in the winter months.

The leaves can also be washed, dried on paper towels and then frozen in snap-lock bags for later use.

Steeping leaves in boiling water for 5 mins will produce a tea, a ceramic teapot is best for this.

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