A simple and complete guide with everything you need to know if you want to grow basil: when and how to sow it, how to prune it, how to harvest it…
Basil is one of the world’s favorite aromatic plants, and here – as well as throughout the Mediterranean and in oriental Thai cuisine – it is a real treasure. Its shiny and almost fleshy leaves, the unmistakable scent, the aroma that improves any dish… but do you know how to grow basil at home? Here is everything you need to know on the subject, a small summary guide.
There are over one hundred and fifty varieties of basil (here in Italy the most popular is undoubtedly that of Pra Ligure) and it varies from sweet to spicy, from bright green to purplish – just think, today there is even a particular type grown under the sea ! This annual plant (that is, it lives for only one season) has an ancient and important etymology in its name: basilikòn in Greek in fact means “royal/king”, and it was probably Alexander the Great who brought it to Magna Graecia from India and Asia.
When and where to plant basil
Basil is a plant that needs heat and sun, both at the time of sowing and at the time of harvest, which is why the ideal times to start growing it are just before spring or late spring. Since it needs 6-8 hours of direct sun a day, whether it’s in a pot or on the ground, the basil must be placed in a particularly lighted corner of the house. If you start in a pot with the intention of transferring it to the ground, you can sow in very late winter and transfer the seedling outside in early spring.
How to grow basil
Basil grows luxuriantly, but if some very simple rules are respected upstream. Here are the main ones:
- opt for rich organic soil;
- enrich the soil with compost, if you can, or take soil already mixed with compost;
- also, add peat moss/ rice husks/ perlite/ coconut fiber for drainage;
- remember the issue of direct sunlight for 6-8 hours a day;
- plant the seeds about 30 cm apart and in neat rows
- There are many who recommend boiled and powdered eggshells or coffee grounds as compost or mineralizers for the soil.
How to prune basil
A general advice for aromatic plants (mint, for example) is not to touch them until they reach 15 cm: when they exceed this height or the little flowers appear, then it is advisable to prune them. What does it mean to prune, for seedlings born recently? We intend to remove the flowers by cutting them just below the bud. This rule is useful for keeping the stems moist and soft… given that with the blooms they tend to become woody, making the basil bitter.
How to harvest basil
One way to harvest basil incorrectly is to tear off the leaves: cut them, at the point where the main stem (on which the leaves are attached) meets the lateral ones. Another tip that shouldn’t be underestimated is when to harvest basil: the morning is the best time because it has a more intense flavor.
How to store it
There are many ways to preserve basil, with methods that include techniques from freezing to pickled, from salted to dried. In this article dedicated to the conservation of basil, you will find many ideas and suggestions.