The sweet, aromatic smell of freshly picked basil leaves might be reason enough to grow it. And adding the herb to a variety of dishes makes them even more tasty. Harvesting basil is relatively simple because the plant may be grown in the garden or in containers.
Basil comes in a variety of colors and flavors with the leaves providing a fragrant, tasty ingredient that complements a variety off dishes. Genovese basil, with its strong fragrance and crinkly green leaves is the most commonly used basil in Italian cooking. This basil also grows well in containers. Pale green Thai basil features a strong licorice flavor and smell, perfect for use in stir-fry dishes. A favorite for salads, the narrow leaves of the Lemon basil offer a lemon flavor and fragrance.
Basil grows in just about any soil type as long as the soil drains well. The plant may be transplanted, giving gardeners a head start on the growing season, or it may be grown from seeds. While basil needs warmer temperatures to grow, it may be grown in partially shady areas of the garden.
Growing in Containers
Basil thrives in container gardens as long as the plants receive plenty of water, sunlight and temperatures above 50 degrees. Growing basil in a container allows gardeners to start growing the plants early in the season. Some gardeners and cooks keep a pot of basil growing all year round in a sunny window, snipping off leaves as they need them.
Harvesting and Storage
For immediate use, a few leaves at a time may be safely harvested from a basil plant. This encourages the plant to grow even more leaves over time. Fresh basil also stores well in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days. Basil leaves also may be frozen for later use although the leaves tend to lose flavor while turning a bit mushy. One of the best ways to preserve basil involves packing layers of salt between the leaves and placing the container in the freezer for use over a few months. Some types of basil may also be dried for use year-round.
Basil leaves work well in a variety of dishes, whether added as a raw ingredient or cooked. Basil works well with almost any tomato dish whether fresh or cooked. The herb also adds great flavor to sauces, soups, vegetables, meats, fish and roasts. Basil also creates fragrant-smelling bath water when a cup of leaves are steeped in hot water, then added to the bath.