Plant of the Week – Basil

Plant of the week - basil

Pronunciation – ˈbeɪzəl/;  (Collins Dictionary. n.d. , 29 November 2014)  (Rhymes with dazzle)

Ocium basilicum.  Also known as great basil or Saint-Joseph’s-wort

Our Plant of the Week -Basil is perhaps the most widely used culinary herb in the world.  Its native range extends from northern Africa to Southeast Asia and is now cultivated around the world in almost every climate. 

Habits

In most growing zones in the US, basil is treated as an annual.  Planting should be done in the spring when all dangers of frost or gone.  Basil is easy to start by transplant or seed.  If planting seed, make sure the soil and air temperatures are warm.  Basil may also be rooted from cuttings by place a stem in water or vermiculite.

Basil will grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet and likes a location with full sun or, in West Texas, morning shade and afternoon sun.  The plants will spread to about 18 inches and should be spaced in landscape settings 12 to 18 inches apart.

Basil Features

Basil flowers

Basil produces small white or purple flowers in mid to late summer.  To keep your plants growing and producing more leaves, pinch the buds before they open.  The blooms are edible and can be used in teas.

One of the features of basil is its square stems.  The leaves can range in color from dark purple to a pale green, be serrated or smooth, glossy or crinkly and are highly aromatic. 

Problems

Most basil seems to resist insect and disease damage.  Some caterpillar damage may appear, especially if the plants are allowed to flower.  A treatment with BT (basillus thuringiensis) is usually sufficient to keep the damage in check.

Occasional foliar feedings with compost tea will also help to keep the foliage thick and lush.

Harvest and Use

Harvest leaves for use fresh!  Rinse lightly in cool water.  If storing the leaves for any time, do not rinse and make sure the leaves are dry before storing or refrigerating.  Any water on the leaves will promote mold growth.  Basil can be dried, or mixed in oil.  Basil can also be frozen and will retain its color.

Basil can be used fresh in salads, mixed with other vegetables, oils, and vinegar. Basil is one of the most popular culinary herbs if not the most popular.

Many people plant basil as an annual ground cover.  Its thick foliage and colorful flowers make it popular.  It also adds a scent layer to the garden. You will understand the first time you walk by a patch of basil and brush up against it and the air around you is suddenly filled with that unmistakable aroma!

Basil also does well in containers, making it a great plant for your container garden or small herb garden.

Fresh Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto

Basil pesto darkens when exposed to air, so to store, cover tightly with plastic wrap making sure the plastic is touching the top of the pesto and not allowing the pesto to have contact with air. The pesto will stay greener longer that way.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 1 cup

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (can sub half the basil leaves with baby spinach)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (can sub chopped walnuts)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

Special equipment:

  • A food processor

METHOD

1 Pulse basil and pine nuts in a food processor: Place the basil leaves and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times.

2: Add the garlic and cheese: Add the garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

3 Stream in the olive oil: While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a small, steady stream. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor.

4 Stir in salt and freshly ground black pepper, add more to taste.

Toss with pasta for a quick sauce, dollop over baked potatoes, or spread onto crackers or toasted slices of bread.

from Simply Recipes ~ https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/fresh_basil_pesto/

Bibliography

Collins Dictionary. n.d. (29 November 2014).