Basil is a versatile culinary herb that comes in many varieties. Most types of basil can add tremendous flavor and freshness to almost any meal.
Basil is easy to grow as long as the weather is warm and the soil is not too soggy. Just like the folks at DIY Backyard Farm, basil enjoys those long, 85+ degree days of summer. Sometimes the heat and sun can be too much. If your basil loses that dark, vibrant green color it is likely telling you it is too hot or dry. The leaves may begin to yellow a bit and even look more thin than they should. I have remedied this problem by planting companions that can shade my basil later in the day. I have also used small, kiddie beach umbrellas to offer some removable shade. Too much shade and the plants won’t grow well either.
Basil likes to have a moist soil, but never allow soil to become soggy as I have noticed the roots are very susceptible to rotting.
One of the biggest basil mistakes I see is also the easiest to fix. People often to not pick their basil frequently enough. Basil needs to be constantly harvested after it reaches a certain height/size. Beginning at around 6″ in height you will need to pinch or snip the top set(s) of leaves from the plant. I like to wait until the plant has at least 3 or even better, 4 full sets of leaves and then I take the top set. This process allows the plant to grow more full, helps prevent it from going to seed, and gives you an excuse to cook something great!
The video below offers a visual on basil harvest tips.
Plant plenty of basil and try some different varieties. I suggest Thai basil for an amazing “secret ingredient” in your next Asian recipe. Just be sure to add it near the end of the cooking process or as a final garnish.
Finally, harvested basil should not be stored in the fridge. The leaves will turn black and the flavor will be off. Basil can be washed, well dried and then frozen. We prefer to make huge batches of pesto and freeze them in small containers or ice-cube trays. Basil flavor on demand all year long!