When to Use:
Basil is best used fresh in recipes. Dried Basil may be used but it does have a weaker flavour.
Best Compliments: cheese, chicken, duck, eggplant, eggs, fish, lamb, liver, olive oil, onions, pasta, pesto, pizza, pork, potatoes, rabbit, salads, shellfish, soups, sweet peppers, tomatoes, veal, vegetables, vinegars, zucchini, tomato sauce
In general, it should be added at the last moment, as cooking will destroy the flavour.
The fresh basil can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer. To store in the freezer blanch the herb quickly in boiling water, remove excess water by gently shaking and patting with a clean dish towel.
Substitutions: 1 teaspoon dried basil = 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil = 1 tablespoon chopped fresh summer savory;
1 teaspoon dried basil = replace with 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, oregano, thyme or tarragon (adding more if necessary)
When to Plant
After all danger of frost. Generally mid-May to early June
How to Grow
Basil grows in full sun or semi-shade. A moderately fertile soil is all that is required. Basil does well in pots or planters and so can be started indoors before being moved outside. Plant seeds 1/2 inch (12 mm) apart and 1/4 inch (6 mm) deep. After seedlings emerge and get first leaves, thin to about 6-8 inches apart (15-20 cm).
Basil can be harvested as soon as leaves appear – start with the young plants from thinning, then pinch leaves as required. Basil does well at new growth on plants.
Home and Garden Tips
To dry basil (or other herbs). When blossoms begin to open, take cuttings during the early morning. Rinse leaves under cool water and discard any damaged leaves. Tie the cuttings with string and hang upside down in the kitchen (or another indoor spot) in an area that is cool and dry and out of sunlight. If you have the room you can also create a drying screen and place in a well-ventilated cool, dry and dark area of your home.
Once dry remove the thicker stems and store the leaves in airtight bottles for later use.