DAYS TO HARVEST
continual leaf harvest starting from ~30 days after transplanting
Sow 4 weeks before the last frost in a bright and warm place, at least 70F. Keep moist but not too wet as the seeds germinate. Transplant when the plants have at least 6 true leaves. If the plants have more than 6 true leaves, feel free to pinch out the first set carefully in order to promote branching even before you transplant them. Use these first baby leaves in spring salads.
Basil will grow in many soils, but will like a little compost.
Not frost hardy.
Harvest leaves and stems just above the nodes to encourage branching and increase leaf production. Pinch out any buds as they form to ensure leaf production. If you wish to allow your basil to flower the for bees or for edible flowers, be aware that this will decrease leaf production.
USES & COOKING SUGGESTIONS
The uses for basil are almost to numerous to mention. Nearly any salad, vegetable dish, sauce, grain, egg or meat dish can be enhanced by fresh basil. Here is a recipe for our favorite pesto, which freezes well to make quick winter meals. (you can also use this recipe with lemon basil, or you can use some of both kinds of basil–experiment and find your favorite proportions.)
3-4 cups of basil leaves, well compacted, but not (too) bruised.
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews (sweeter and less expensive than the traditional pine-nuts)
1 cup good shredded asiago or parmesan (not from a shaker–it needs to add quite a bit of flavor, and the shakers usually have a lot of filler in them)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4-5 medium to large cloves of garlic (or 6 to 8 small ones)
Put everything into a food processor and pulse until thoroughly chopped, but not too smooth. Taste. Add more salt if needed, or more nuts if too salty. Eat some right away on fresh pasta or zucchini spaghetti, and freeze the rest, labeled and dated, in small freezer ziploc bags, being careful to remove all the air bubbles as they will discolor the pesto (it’s still fine to eat if it’s discolored by air bubbles, but just not as pretty). Put the amount in one bag that you would use for one meal. Flatten the bags for efficient freezer stacking.
For a simple, quick and delicious cream of tomato soup, take a one-quart jar of tomato pasata (plain sauce with no sweeteners or flavorings, if you have canned your own, that will give you the best flavor), break off a 2 inch by 2 inch section of frozen pesto from your bag, and add 4 tablespoons of cream cheese. Heat thoroughly and puree to ensure no lumps of cream cheese. Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich or on its own.