It wouldn’t be summer in the garden without basil, so go ahead and plant some now! It goes a long way in sprucing up a sauce or salad. Not just handy in the kitchen, there are many uses for this aromatic herb. Even better, it’s a cinch to grow.
Basil needs 6-8 hours of sun per day and grows best in a garden bed or container. If growing indoors, make sure to place your plant on a south-facing windowsill. I grow several varieties, including Spicy Globe, Purple Basil, and the traditional Sweet Basil, and there are many more to choose from.
I like to drink tulsi, or Holy Basil, as a tea. The plant has sacred meanings in Hinduism, hence the name. You can steep fresh or dried leaves in hot water. On its own, Holy Basil tea is caffeine-free.
Basil likes it hot, so wait to plant it until the daytime temperatures are above 70 degrees and night time temperatures stay above 50. Any chill will cause the leaves to blacken and curl. Basil needs rich soil with plenty of organic matter to hold moisture and improve drainage. Harvest whole stems by making cuts just above a pair of leaves and be sure to pinch back the flowers to prevent the plant from producing seed. This will encourage more leaf growth. Place bunches of stems inside in glass jars or vases with a little water. They will not only be at your fingertips when you need them, but also look great sitting on your windowsill.
Basil is best used fresh, but any extra that you have can be preserved through drying or freezing in ice cubes. Then you’ll have sweet, peppery basil to use in soups and other dishes throughout the winter months.
Uses For Basil
- Bust stress: Add some basil leaves to your bath, along with some Epsom salt, to help you relax.
- Soothe your stomach: For indigestion, steep three or four basil leaves in a cup of boiling water. Drink in between meals throughout the day.
- Enhance butter: Place 1/4 cup finely chopped basil, one clove of chopped garlic, and one stick (1/2 cup) of salted butter in a bowl. Stir until combined. Place on wax paper, roll into a cylinder and refrigerate.
- Kick up your cocktail: Make a simple syrup by combining 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and a handful of basil leaves in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar dissolves then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cool and strain. Refrigerate the syrup in a sealed container and use within a week.
- Battle against bites: Rub a drop of basil oil on a bug bite to get rid of the itch.