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One of the most popular herbs, especially in Italian cookery, basil is an essential if you grow tomatoes, as their flavours pair so well. Plants are well suited to pots, or take out a full row in the vegetable garden to grow enough to make your own pesto sauce.
Varieties such as the organic Sweet Genovese can be grown on a windowsill all year round to make the classic Italian salad of basil, mozzarella cheese and sliced beefsteak tomatoes. However, it's not just Italian food and green leaves - the Basket of Basils packet is a mixture of up to seven ornamental and fragrant types, including different leaf colours, sizes and textures with aromas and flavours from anise to cinnamon. If you’re into Asian cuisine, try Thai basil, which has a mild, spicy aniseed flavour and is an essential ingredient in Thai dishes. Read more
How to grow Basil
Most basil varieties can be sown indoors all year round in small pots or trays of good seed compost, at a temperature of 15-20°C/60-68°F. However, for summer crops, sow from late February to midsummer. Sowing depth is a 0.5cm/1/4in. When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant and pot on in multi-purpose potting compost until eventually in 20-23cm/8-9in pots, disturbing the roots as little as possible.
In warmer areas, sow outdoors from May-June, in rows 25-30cm/10-12in apart. Plant basil outside after all danger of frost has passed, choosing a sunny, sheltered spot with well-drained soil or grow plants in containers.
Always water in the morning, as basil hates having wet roots overnight. Keep plants productive by pinching the tips of branches regularly and remove any flowers. To harvest, remove leaves as needed or gather whole plants to make pesto.
Did You Know?
Basil is one of the best companion plants you can grow, as it attracts pollinators such as butterflies which will help asparagus, beans, beets, cabbage, chilli, peppers, aubergines, marigolds, oregano and potatoes. Tomatoes and basil go together beautifully, as growing them together improves the flavour of each plant. Basil also repels harmful insects such as asparagus beetles, mosquitoes and white flies and draws away aphids from other crops. When cooking with basil, always tear the leaves rather than chopping them for the best flavour. Tearing follows cell boundaries, keeping more of them (and their flavour) intact. Show less