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» How To Grow Basil

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Sweet Basil Plant
Sweet Basil Plant
As we get closer to spring and have a few days of warmer weather, anyone who loves to grow things will think about starting seeds. My first project is usually starting a few herbs in pots and placing them on a sunny windowsill. Basil is among my favorite because there are so many varieties and it is quite easy to grow.

While most people think of basil as being traditionally an Italian herb there are so many different kinds that you can use it in most any dish and it need not be confined to tomato dishes, it works very well with poultry or pork and in salads.

There are far too many types of basil to cover them all, but I will touch on a few of the more popular varieties and the ones that in my experience are the easiest to grow.

Sweet basil is by far the most popular and widely used type but there are several different varieties. They have a very distinctive aroma and any tomato dish that it is added to is bound to get many compliments.

Another wonderful thing about this plant is that even if you don’t have time or space for a garden it grows very well in pots placed in a sunny location and will make a nice addition to a patio or deck.

Flowering Basil Plant
Flowering Basil Plant

These are just a few of the varieties of sweet basil:

Medinette Basil – This is a very compact type with leaves a bit larger than bush basil which makes it wonderful for planting in pots reaching only 12 to 14 inches, it is also slow to bolt (wilt or lose it’s leaves) in hotter or dry climates like most basil, it germinates easily and can be planted outside in mid to late spring in most zones, or inside at any time of the year.

Sweet Salad Basil – This is a medium leaf variety and is great for use fresh in salads, on tomatoes or in pestos and can be added at the last minute in soups or chopped finely onto rice dishes. It has a very mild sweet flavor and the hint of cinnamon clove flavor gives it an added twist. Because of this flavor it also works well with dishes such as chicken curry. This is the basil most widely used commercially because it dries quite well without the leaves turning black.

Nufar f1 Basil – this is the first type of basil that was grown to be fusarium resistant. Fusarium is a fungal disease common in basil and can be identified by a sudden wilting of leaves and death of the plant. Once the fungus has set in there is no way to cure it and the contaminated plant should be removed immediately and do not replant as the soil will be contaminated also. The disease can also be transmitted from plant to plant and from diseased seeds. There are several types that are resistant to this and that makes them quite popular.

Genovese Basil -This is a classic large leafed type originally grown in the area of Genoa Italy which is considered the Pesto capital of the world and is wonderful used fresh or frozen in pesto butter or salads.

Gecofure Basil – The name represents a contraction of Genovese Compatto Fusarium Resistant. This variety is very resistant to diseases and was bred for leaf quality and uniformity and has a very unique aroma and flavor it is one of the more compact types and is excellent for growing in smaller herb gardens or pots. There are several types of bush basil which grow very well in limited space or for pot gardens usually they small fine leaves and are very compact. As with most basil they are quite easy to grow and are quite ornamental in looks.

Marseilles Basil – this is a superb bush basil which also qualifies for the dwarf type because it only grows to about 10 inches making it a perfect choice for pots or a wonderful border plant for any type of garden.

Spicy Global Basil – This is a very attractive form of bush basil. It has slightly larger leaves than most and grows in uniform round little bushes, it tends to be a bit hardier than many bush varieties making it a good selection for potted plant sales. Aside from the specific types there are many types of basil that don’t really fit in any category here are a few kinds that while they may be a bit harder to find will enhance any herb garden.

Indian Basil -This plant has beautiful purple flowers and deep green foliage. It grows to a height of around 3 feet. In India the seeds are used to make a very popular milkshake type of beverage called falooda, They soak the seeds in water and they form a gel then are stirred in rose syrup and crushed ice, they have no real aroma or flavor but add in the cooking action of the ice, and are also thought to restore body strength. It is also said that they are used in the treatment of intestinal worms and coughs. It has a religious tie to all Muslims because the emperor Aurangzeb declared that this basil should be planted on his tomb.

Oriental Breeze Basil – This basil has very bright green leaves and huge purple flower heads so will be at home in your flower garden as well as the herb garden. When planted in pots it reaches about 12 to 16 inches but in the garden will grow as high as 28 inches. The flowers appear from June to September and the leaves have a strong basil scent and flavor.

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