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How To Grow Basil

Plant: Annual

Height: 30-60cm
Soil: Moderately Rich, Moist
Exposure: Sun
Propagation: Seeds
Uses: Culinary 
Growing: All basils can be grown in full sun or semi-shade and a warm, moderately rich soil. They should not be fertilized as flavour is likely to be sacrificed for lush growth. Water regularly to keep growth succulent and the leaves fresh. Indoors, basil requires sun and should be pinched occasionally to keep growth bushy. Basil grows readily from seeds sown in the spring as soon as the ground is warm.
The basils are attractive annual herbs with a sharp, spicy flavour and long history of use. There are several species, but the plants most commonly grown for culinary and ornamental values are O. basilicum and its varieties.
Sweet basil (O. basilicum) grows to about 60cm high and has shiny green leaves that are 2-4cm long. Small white flowers grow in spikes at the ends of the stems. If the stem tips are pinched out frequently, sweet basil will grow bushy and full, making it an attractive border plant. This species is the most popular one for cooking. The variety ´Dark Opal´ won an All-America bronze medal for its decorative, purple-bronze foliage and spikes of small lavender-pink flowers.
Bush basil (O. b. minimum) has more branches and a more compact growth than sweet basil. The leaves are much smaller, and the edges curl inward toward the centre vein. It grows to about 50cm tall.
Basil has a rich history, but the stories about it often are contradictory. In Italy, basil is associated with sympathy and compassion which is supposed to arise between those who wear sprigs of it. In other countries, basil is a sign of love and devotion between young couples
The leaves have a spicy, clove-like flavour that is an excellent complement to such foods as eggs, cheese, fish, poultry, stuffing’s, salads, meats, and spaghetti. It is especially good in tomato dishes. Use either the fresh or cured leaves. Preserve them by freezing or packing in salt. (You might try chopping the fresh leaves and adding a little olive oil before freezing them.)