Basil likes it hot, but slow; don’t be too eager to get it into the garden. I learned this the hard way, with plants that were either sunburned from introducing them to the outside too fast, or plants that were frostbitten from the very lightest of frosts that didn’t faze the other plants one bit.
It’s a very sensitive plant, in other words. It responds quickly to moisture and heat, germinating in about 2-4 days if it’s warm enough. It gets a sunburn from spring sunshine if it’s outside too long for the first time. It can sense frost before the frost even arrives, shrivelling up in horror at the impending doom.
Maybe a slightly neurotic plant, but it has a huge following. It’s not that hard to grow once established in the garden. Pesto and tomato sauces are a common use for it, but it also does well in salads and on gourmet pizzas. Treat it well and you will have plenty of opportunity to try many delicious dishes.
Here’s a printable info sheet about growing basil (PDF) for you:
Here are the varieties I’m growing this year, maybe you might like to try some too. It’s not to late to start them indoors!
Genovese: Classic pesto basil.
Cinnamon: Pink flowers, purple stalks, and a cinnamon scent. Sweet and spicy.
Lemon: My all-time favourite. Delicious citrus scent and taste.
Lime: Fantastic flavour. Makes a nice light pesto and goes well with Mexican food, especially if you’re not fond of cilantro.
Purple Ruffles: Does double duty as an edible AND ornamental. Very pretty in the garden as an accent plant, with good flavour for purple pesto.
Thai: Green leaves with purple stems and flowers. Spicy flavour.
Holy Red and Green: This one, I grew for the name and the foliage. It’s kinda fuzzy, which surprised me at first. But it has a mellow flavour and looks pretty in the garden too.
Are you growing some different basils this year?
If you’re interested in learning more about Growing Herbs in Containers, I’m giving a workshop at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery on May 25. You’ll plant your own container full of herbs (included in the price), and take home recipes too.
There are only 5 spots left, last I heard, so sign up now if you’re interested.