Tender basil is the best summer herb and is as
good in the garden as in the kitchen
Suitably perhaps for a plant with such rich bright,
fragrant leaves, basil is a tender plant and will not
survive winter frosts. So in Britain we grow it as an
annual and this is the time to be sowing the seed.
Alternatively, if you have grown young seedlings in
pots you can put the plants outside. Or, of course,
you can opt for the easiest option and buy a plant,
but make sure it looks as though it has only just started
This is also the time to appreciate what a wonderfully
versatile plant this is. You can literally grow it anywhere:
in a tray on the kitchen windowsill, in a window-box,
a pot, or in your veg patch.
One tip - if you are growing it in a pot try and use
one made of clay or terracotta not a plastic one. It
likes daily watering, preferably in the morning or around
midday so the soil has dried before the temperature
drops at night.
Remember that basil
is one of the most decorative herbs and so try and plant
it to take advantage of this. The texture of the leaves
makes them look varnished and their shade of green is
totally mouth-watering. And they're not only green;
you can get varieties with leaves in superb contrasting
shades of purple. Some of the purple ones are called
'Dark Opal', 'Purple Ruffles' and 'Rubin'. A few different
varieties of basil massed together in a group of pots
look superb on a terrace, roof garden or patio: shut
your eyes, inhale and you're in Italy.
Growing your own guarantees a constant fresh supply
and basil will go on producing new growth and leaves
until killed off by frost. For salads it is the perfect
compliment to tomatoes: whole leaves of basil, sliced
tomatoes and a covering of olive oil. You don't need
And of course it is the vital ingredient for one of
the great Italian recipes: pesto sauce. Basil leaves,
a clove of peeled garlic, a few pine nuts and walnuts,
parmesan cheese, salt and olive oil, mixed in a blender.
No wonder that the best variety of basil for cooking
is called Genovese - from the home of pesto sauce, Genoa.
with premission from Greenfingers.com