By Josie Borlongan, Garden Guides Contributor
Basils are annuals with toothed, pointed-oval leaves. Basils must be grown under cover or in warm position in colder regions. Basils of the Family Lamiaceae (Labiatae) are low-growing plants. Basils are cultivated as a culinary herb, condiment or spice. They are a source of essential oil for use in foods, flavors, and fragrances. The green aromatic leaves are used in salads and can be used fresh or dried to add flavors or spices in stews, vegetable, poultry, meat, vinegars, pesto and pasta dishes.
Prepare soils well in advance, preferably during fall. Remove all weeds that may compete with the soil nutrients. Basils are susceptible to frost and cold-temperature injury. They require full sun and well-drained soils so that they will grow healthy and vigorous.Basils can tolerate slightly acidic soils. If the pH is lower than 6.5, add a dressing of lime when preparing the soil.Aside from its culinary use, basils have medicinal uses. Basils have been known to treat headaches, coughs, diarrhea, constipation, stomach aches, worms, warts and kidney malfunctions.
Choosing a Variety
The recommended vaireties of basils are:Sweet basil (O. basilicum), Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflorum Siam Queen), Genovese basil (O. basilicum Genovese Gigante), Cinnamon basil (O. basilicum Cinnamon), Licorice basil (O. basilicum Licorice), Spicy globe basil (O. basilicum Spicy Globe), Purple ruffles basil (O. basilicum Purple Ruffles), Fino verde basil (O. basilicum piccolo), Nufar basil (O. basilicum Nufar F1), Magical Michael (O. basilicum Magical Michael), Lettuce leaf basil (O. basilicum Lettuce Leaf), Mammoth basil (O. basilicum Mammoth), Red rubin basil (O. basilicum Red Rubin), Dark opal basil (O. basilicum Purpurascens), Cuban basil (O. basilicum), Mrs. Burns lemon basil (O. basilicum var. citriodora Mrs. Burns) and Osmin purple basil (O. basilicum Osmin Purple).
Basil can be grown in a variety of situations. You can have a separate herb garden that does not require a lot of space. You can also grow them in pots placed on kitchen windowsills for easy picking when cooking. Basils can also be grown in hanging baskets or plastic pails. Almost any container is suitable provided there are drainage holes. Furthermore, container-grown herbs may be planted throughout the year, but the best time is during spring.To sow basil seeds in containers, first tap the seeds from a fold of paper onto firmed medium. Lightly cover with sieved medium and keep moist at a minimum temperature of 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, carefully lift them with a widger, holding them by the leaves, not by the stems to prevent damage. Prick out seedlings individually into cell packs of firmed soil mix, then keep moist in a sunny, well ventilated place. Plant them out after frost danger or grow them in containers under cover.
Make sure to water regularly and allow for water to drain, especially in potted plants. In planting beds, add mulch to prevent moisture from escaping.
Harvesting and Storage
Pick basil leaves when young during summer. Freeze, dry or use to flavor herbs or vinegar right after picking or pack in jars of oil to preserve them.'