Description: Sweet Basil, also known as Italian Basil is an annual aromatic herb with soft green leaves and white flowers.
Sweet Basil flower
Sweet Basil leaves are used in cooking and are particularly nice with tomato in a salad. Basil is used in pesto and often used in Italian recipes. Fresh leaves have the best flavour so are usually added fresh just before serving. Basil can also be dried or frozen but the flavour is not as good.
Basil leaves can be used as a medicinal tea. The crushed leaves are reputed to be a mosquito and fly repellent.
Size: Basil grows to 30 to 50 cm (12 to 20 inches) in height.
Conditions: Basil grows best in full sun in well drained fertile soil in a protected spot. It is frost sensitive. Basil can be grown in pots.
Propagation: Basil grows easily from seeds once frosts are over. Basil requires warmth to germinate and thrive. Place a few seeds on top of potting mix or fertile soil and cover with a sprinkling of potting mix or soil. Firm the soil down and keep seeds moist but not too wet. Apply a light layer of mulch to stop the soil from drying out.
Plant a few more basil seeds two months later to ensure an ongoing crop.
Packet of seeds
Seedlings grown from seed
Basil thrives near tomatoes and capsicums and is said to improve the flavour of both. It grows well near most herbs and vegetables but not near raspberries or the herb rue.
Basil seedlings can be bought in punnets or as individual plants at a more advanced stage from plant nurseries.
Punnets of basil can be bought at nurseries
As the plants grow, pinch out the top of the middle stem and remove flowers to encourage bushy growth. Sweet Basil needs regular watering and benefits from a dose of liquid fertiliser.each month.
Pick leaves as needed for cooking.
When to Plant: Seeds can be planted in
• spring (any climatic zone)
• summer (temperate and cool zones)
• autumn and winter (tropical and semi tropical zones)