Basil - The Essential Herb
If I could only have one herb; let it be Basil! Crush a few leaves and the rich pungent scent surrounds you with thoughts of a myriad of delectable dishes. And then there is pesto.
Is There Just One? Of course there is also a wide range of this fragrant herb. I’m growing just seven different ones this year (Siam Queen pictured right.) They differ in size, intensity and flavour. There is a Lemon variety (below left in a pot,)or one of my favourites, Lime, which is wonderful with Grilled Salmon. I grow a compact one, as a well behaved and decorative, container plant. Grown right beside the kitchen door, I can quickly grab a handful to toss into whatever is happening the kitchen. The large dark leafed Genovese types are the truest flavour, make the best pesto and are easy to chop into my favourite mid-summer salad. Basil and Tomatoes just seem to belong together.
Is It Difficult To Grow? No! It is a fast growing annual that germinates readily and quickly. Search the seed catalogues for the widest range of varieties but the grocery store seed rack will have at least one available. You can start the shiny black seeds a few weeks early indoors to get that pungent flavour into your kitchen as early as possible or just sow it directly into warm soil and a good crop will appear quite quickly. It needs no special care and will grow in full sun or in partial shade. Thin the seedlings to let the large leafed types develop fully. As soon as the leaves are big enough to pick and there are a few of them, start using it. The thinings from the seedling row should not be wasted either.
Be careful what you do with it the first year you grow it. You’ll find yourself with more varieties the next year.
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