This herb’s rich history dates back to the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. It’s Greek name means “Royal”.

* This herb is a tender annual. It will grow from 1 to 2 feet tall depending on the variety.

* Basil blooms from mid-summer to fall. It has small white, pink or purplish flowers on it which can be eaten by the way!

* The taste of Basil has been described as having a peppery, spicy sweet and to some palates licorice flavor. It has a heady strong fragrance when fresh and is pungent. There is also a hint of mint depending on the variety you have chosen.

* Start your seeds indoors six weeks before your last frost of spring. Transplant after all danger of frost have passed. If you love basil, make successive plantings up to July for harvesting.
* Plant all Basil’s in full sun.

* Once the plants have established themselves be sure to mulch to retain moisture in the summer months. Basil does not like to completely dry out but doesn’t like it’s feet wet all the time either. Mulching with straw is perfect!

* Plants perform best when planted 12 to 18 inches apart.

* Few pests bother Basil but those that like the flavor as much as you might would be; aphids, rose chafers, Japanese beetles and slugs.

* If your soil is poor in drainage, you will develop fungal leaf spot disease. Fusarium wilt is another disease that effects Basil. Aphids may cause cucumber mosaic virus.

* Harvesting basil is best done when the plants have reached 8-10 inches tall and before blooming.

* Basil leaves should be dry when harvested. If your plants are not bushy enough, cut back the central stem, cutting the top 3-4 sets of leaves. As the plant tries to grow new leaves, pinch back the top 2-3 sets of leaves. This will promote new lower branches and thus make your plants bushier and more productive. To keep plants producing leaves for harvesting, pinch out all flowers buds as soon as you see them forming. Once the plants flowers, it thinks it is the end of the season and will slow itself in production and or die.

* Preserving Basil is best done by blanching the leaves and placing in (water) ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out of trays, place them in a container or bag, label & date for future usage.

* When cooking with Basil your best tasting options are fresh, followed by frozen. Certainly there are those who use Basil dried and it is alright but certainly it isn’t in it’s best form. Use this herb with shellfish, egg dishes, vegetable soups, pasta salads, salad dressings, and all tomato recipes love Basil! Of course the all time favorite of most is the garden fresh Pesto!! You may want to make your own Basil flavored vinegar, or combine with extra virgin oil for cooking.

* If you are into the medicinal end of herbs you probably already know that Basil aids in digestion and has been known to reduce fevers. In the bath the herb has been said to act as a stimulating herb.

* Are you into floral arrangements?Then added sprigs of Basil not only adds color & texture but you have the added benefit of it’s heady fragrance too!

No matter how anxious you are to get your Basil in the ground in the spring, DO NOT plant before temperatures are 60-65 degrees at night! I grew and sold herbs at my herb/fruit store years ago and the number one problem I found growing Basil was everyone planted it too early! Now while it was good for my business (I sold them new plants), it was very depressing for the grower, especially when they were beginners and had no idea why their Basil plants wouldn’t grow in the garden! Basil loves heat! Even if your plants do not die, they will be stunted and never recover or even worse, they shrink in size, honest. I put some in a garden one year just because I couldn’t wait any longer! They not only got smaller but they never fully recovered and produce as well as the ones I planted 3 weeks later. Some lessons are hard to learn! Don’t push Mother Nature, be patient. Your herbs will love you for it!

Another tip is that Basil repels flying insects! You may want a pot of this herb gracing your picnic table. Crush a leaf or two to release the fragrance!

When it comes to the types of Basil, consult a good seed catalog. As a rule they have the best information on the size, flavor, color and uses. In general the best Basil for cooking is “Genovese”. It has large green leaves and is excellent in pesto. But be sure to try the other types too and make your own decision which is best. There are several types that have a lemon or spicy flavor, higher in fragrance, medicinally stronger (if your into that end of growing) and some you may just like the flavor better.

That’s the beauty of growing herbs! You get to decide what each plant provides for you!
How many types of Basil are you planning to grow this coming Spring?