by Briscoe White
Of all the herbs we grow at The Growers Exchange, basil is by far the most popular. Its distinctive flavor adds zest to tomato dishes, salads and many other foods. A warm season annual, it grows four to six feet in height.
To grow basil outdoors, transplant small plants to a sunny, well-drained location with fertile soil. Plant in a spot near your kitchen so leaves can be collected as they are needed. The number one reason for problems with basil is planting too early. As basil does not tolerate cool temperatures it is best to wait until after May 1 to plant outside. Night temperatures should be in the high 50's.
To grow small quantities of basil early in the season, try potted plants in a sunny window. Remember, warmth and plenty of sun are necessary for vigorous plants. Frequent pinching will give leaves for cooking and keep the plants tight and bushy.
To store basil, puree leaves and freeze in ice trays, or if you dry the leaves, do it in a microwave to keep the leaves from turning black. Grow a succession of plants to ensure a regular supply of leaves.
Among the most popular varieties that we grow are:
Basil Genovese is a favorite for authentic Italian basil flavor and appearance. The tall and relatively slow to bolt stems bear dark green leaves about 3" long. This is a wonderful pesto basil. For summer long harvest be sure to keep your Basil from going to flower. Plant in full sun. Grows 24-30".
Italian Large Leaf Basil is a sweeter pesto type basil with high yields in the garden. This is a large herb with medium-dark green leaves. When compared to Genovese the flavor and scent are sweeter and less clove like. Plant in full sun and harvest frequently to keep from going to flower. Grows 24-30" tall.
Nufar Basil is a must for every herb gardener. This large leaf basil is resistant to fusarium wilt- the killer of many a garden basil plant. Nufar Basil is almost identical to Italian Large Leaf Basil- the pesto favorite. This basil has a sweet scent and flavor and will grow up to 30" tall. Plant in full sun and be sure to harvest frequently to keep it from going to flower.
Basil Red Rubin is a vigorous, purple, Italian Large Leaf type. This basil has high yields and great flavor. The flat, 3" long leaves stand out in the garden with their purple bronze coloration. Plant in full sun and harvest frequently to keep from going to flower. Grows 18-24" tall.
About the Author
In 1985, Briscoe White opened The Growers Exchange in an abandoned Texaco station on a busy urban street corner in Richmond, Virginia. Briscoe has over 25 years of gardening experience. For further information on basil plants or gardening tips please visit Briscoe White at The Growers Exchange Blog.
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