Many gardeners add the sweet basil plant in the garden with other crops, especially tomatoes. Basil plants are the perfect companion for tomatoes, enhancing their flavor and repelling some of those damaging insects that cause damage to the tomato. Of course, many are familiar with using sweet (Italian) basil in a variety of pasta dishes and as a primary ingredient when making pesto.
The basil plant is native to India and a member of the mint family. Recent studies find basil has high quantities of (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP), thought to effectively treat arthritis pain. Research indicates basil has strong anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. There are numerous varieties and uses of the natural basil plant.
What Is Basil?
Basil is a culinary herb, found in most herb gardens in the US and the UK. Also called Saint Joseph’s Wort, this herb is debatably the most popular one we grow. It is an annual plant, meaning it completes its lifespan within one year. With basil, complete growth is normally within one warm, seasonal period. This period often covers part of spring, summer, and part of the autumn. The growth period varies by location. When temperatures are too cold, basil will die back or have stunted growth.
This herb is a staple in kitchens everywhere, whether used by the weekend grill master or the professional, everyday cook. Basil is used globally, in all types of cuisine. A member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, the basil plant is an abundant summer grower. For those unfamiliar with mint and its relatives; know that most grow vigorously on square stems when the soil has warmed. Rosemary and oregano are of this family. Basil and related herbs possess volatile essential oils that can help the body protect itself against diseases and boost our immunities.
Main Varieties of the Basil Plant
According to Dr. Axe, there are 35 kinds of basil, with Holy Basil being the most researched and diversely used. This cultivar is also called tulsi and is widely used for medicinal purposes and healing.
As mentioned, Sweet Italian Basil is commonly used in the US and has a scent and taste often described as cloves.
You may grow Lemon Basil, Lime Basil . Lettuce Leaf Basil with large and highly aromatic leaves is a mild version of Italian Basil.
There is Cinnamon Basil and then there are the purple basils, often attractive in the landscape.
If you’re new to growing basil, experiment with a few varieties after researching the characteristics.There are numerous uses for basil.,
How to Grow Basil in Your Garden
Any time the soil has warmed to 70 degrees outside is a great time to grow the basil plant. Starting with small seedlings provides usable leaves most quickly unless you have access to cuttings from a plant grown indoors through the winter.
- Start the seeds inside during winter, if you have the inclination, they are not hard to sprout. Plant those hard to find varieties from seed. Most all, even those with short growing seasons in the US (lower 48 states) allow enough time for the basil plant to mature.
- Plant a few seedlings and cuttings into the garden for soon to use harvest of the basil plant. Amend the soil before planting. Add compost for soil improvement and limit fertilization of healthy plants. A light top-dressing of compost on maturing plants will make them bigger and healthier.
- Grow basil in containers, if desired. This plant, as with most aromatic herbs, will adapt to the size of the growing space. Plant seeds at intervals for an ongoing supply of the fresh leaves. Make plans to use all the leaves before a hard freeze damages them and kills the plants. For an indoor winter herb garden, use young plants and include a couple of varieties of the basil plant.
- Plant basil in a sunny spot in the garden, taking care not to plant where it may later become shaded by taller plants. Harvest basil often, pinching back top leaves to make the plant take on a bushy form. The basil plant needs regular watering, especially during hot summer days. Check the soil often for moisture, but don’t let the plant sit in soggy soil.
We hope you found the above tips useful and that you’ll soon have a garden full of this wonderful plant. More importantly, we hope you get to taste the sweet deliciousness that this spice brings to your cooking!
Image from pixabay.com.