Basil – Maximize your basil crop

Basil growing in my garden

Basil is one of the first herbs I plant each year as I love the flavor as long as it is fresh.  Dried, it loses all its personality for me.  So from early spring, to late fall, I always have basil growing in my garden.

Being an annual, you have to plant it each year, but it is an easy plant to grow.  Once basil starts to leaf out, pinch it back often and use it!  Basil does have a tendency to flower early and then it goes woody. the leaves become tougher and they aren’t as flavorful.  And the production of new leaves comes to a halt.  The best way to keep your basil growing and healthy is to cut or pinch bunches of leaves often and as soon as you see a flower start to form, pinch it off.  This will keep your basil crop growing well through the season.  Cut the leaves, including the branch at a “Y” in the plant, just above the joint, this will encourage a bushier plant.  Don’t be afraid to prune basil, it thrives with this kind of treatment!

Basil comes in a lot of varieties but my favorite is Genevesse or sweet basil, known for its medium to large leaves.  I also like Greek basil, a hearty plant with smaller leaves and a bit stronger in flavor.  Box basil is variety with tiny leaves so I grow that mainly for scent in the garden and Thai basil, I find a bit finicky and not as good of a producer.  For your first plant I would select a sweet basil variety.    One plant, well cared that you pay $1.50 for at the nursery will easily give you $50.00 worth of basil in return, when you consider a small container of fresh basil runs around $2.00 a bunch and lasts only a few days in your fridge.  Home grown basil is definitely a money saver!

Lemon Basil Sorbet

Use basil in Italian and Thai dishes, or chop a few leaves into a fruit salad, or try it in a lemon sorbet – I’ll be posting this recipe separately.  It’s really refreshing!

Happy gardening!

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