Organic Basil: Everything You Need to Know
Includes the Best Pesto Pasta Recipe Ever
Basil can arguably be one of the best herbs to grow in your home garden. The amazing earthy aroma and sweet taste make it a stable for many dishes. Basil can be used in tomato sauces, teas, on sandwiches, or to make incredible pesto to eat as a dip for your veggies or poured over noodles.
If you have used basil in the past, you might have bought a plant from the store. An organic basil plant can cost anywhere between $4-$6 for just one plant. While that might work if you just use a basil leaf here or there, but what if you are planning to make your own pesto? Just one plant is just not going to cut it. Pesto is so easy and tastes so much better homemade, who wouldn’t want to make their own?
Starting basil from seed is a cost effective way to ensure that you will have plenty of basil plants to last you throughout the summer and have some left over to freeze for the winter.
You can start your basil seeds indoors around 6-8 weeks before the last frost of winter. Using an organic seed starting mix will help to make sure your basil seeds have everything they need.
Organic basil seeds can be purchased right from your local grocery or hardware store. If you are feeling a little adventurous, try purple basil which has a little less sweet taste then regular basil, but is still so delicious. You can also try lemon basil, or Thai basil which has a licorice flavor. It will still give you amazing pesto and all the same benefits of regular sweet basil.
If you forgot to start your basil plants indoors, you can go ahead and plant it directly into the garden. As your seedlings begin to emerge, you can thin your plants to about 10-12 inches apart. You can also relocate other seedlings to make sure each plant has the adequate amount of space to grow.
As your basil plant grows it will reach about 20 – 24 inches in height.
Basil plants also make great companion plants with tomato and cucumber plants. They will help keep the aphids away from your tomato and cucumber plants.
Growing Organic Basil
When you have a few basics down about basil, it can be pretty easy to grow. Basil likes hot weather and lots of water. Make sure to find a spot in your garden where your basil plants will get 6-8 hours of sun a day. The soil of your basil plant should be moist and well drained.
One way to make sure that your basil plants are getting the amount of water they need, is to use the Rootsticks. This is a direct to root watering device that you install around your plants. It is easy to use and easy to install. The main idea of the Rootwell is to bring nutrients, oxygen, and water the roots right at the source. In addition, adding mulch around the base of the plant will help to keep in moisture.
As your basil plant grows, you will notice that it will begin to grow a little flower at the very top. This is the process called “going to seed.” If the plant reaches this point and nothing is done, it will impact the taste of the plant. So, when you see this flowers forming, go ahead and cut that flowering top and continue to harvest the leaves of the basil plant. The plant will continue to grow and produce additional leaves. Keep in mind that the more your harvest the more leaves that will grow.
The best time to harvest is right when the plant starts to bud, but before the flowers bloom.
While you can just leave the plant and continue to use as you need, some gardeners suggest that you prune your plant. The idea is that every time a plant has around 6 leaves you are to prune to above the second set of leaves. When a basil plant is pruned regularly, it can produce up to 4-6 cups of leaves per week.
You can harvest your basil plant by simply pinching off a leave as you need it. If you are planning make pesto, which often calls for cup loads of leaves, you can pinch leaves off of various different plants.
The best part of harvesting your basil plants is the more you use them the more they continue to grow their leaves back. Your basil plants will last you all summer long and even through the winter if you choose to bring a few plants indoors. Keeping a few plants in containers is a great way to help keep the plant mobile and basil will do great in a container.
If you want to dry your basil leaves, pinch off the leaves at the stem and place them in a shady area that has good ventilation. They should be dry in about 3-4 day.
Benefits of Basil
Not only does basil taste amazing, it has powerful health benefits as well. While we are not medical professionals, a number of studies have been done on the benefits of basil. According to a study by International Journal of Cosmetic Science, basil can help fight acne. The oil in basil helps combat the bacteria that causes pimples.
In addition, basil is also known to have antianxiety affects. Some studies suggest that adding a few leaves to your tea can help relax you due to the way the basil lowers cortisol, a hormone secreted when you are tense. These are just a few examples of the powerful benefits of basil.
Basil’s distinctively earthy yet, sweet taste make it a staple for any kitchen. If there is just one herb that you choose to grow this summer, basil should be one of your top choices. It is easy to grow, and the benefits that it produces will be worth all your effort.
Have you grown basil? What is your favorite recipe to use your basil in? Have you made your own pesto?
The Best Pesto Pasta Recipe Ever
4 Cups of Freshly cut Organic Basil leaves – Purple or Sweet Basil
1/2 Cup Oil
4 Medium Organic Garlic Cloves – Use less or more to your own taste
1/3 Cup of Almonds (Can use any nuts: Tree Nuts, Walnuts, or try without nuts – still tastes amazing.)
1 package of Bowtie Noodles cooked
1 Cup chopped chicken
½ Cup Cherry Tomatoes
½ Cup Parmesan Cheese
Garlic Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Cook bowtie noodles according to directions. Rinse with cold water.
Chop cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and cooked chicken and combine with cooked noodles. Add pesto sauce and cheese and serve immediately.