The gourmet basil garden
Elizabeth McCorquodale urges you to grow your own basil, give it a little respect, plenty of sunshine and your culinary options will start to thrive It hasn’t taken long for basil to become an essential ingredient in British cuisine. Twenty years ago the staples of the British herb garden and spice rack were the old favourites thyme, sage, rosemary and parsley. These days basil figures high on the list of most popular herbs and it ranks near the top of the list in supermarket fresh herb sales – however it still lags behind as a herb garden favourite and it is rare to find basil plants in nurseries or garden centres.
if they are given a little respect. To keep them happy indoors set them in a very bright spot and never let them get chilled by cold temperatures or draughts. Rather than giving your plant a severe haircut with scissors, harvest the leaves by pinching out the growing tips of each stem just above a joint. For every growing tip you pinch out, two new stems will grow. With this in mind, and if you use a lot of basil, three plants on a windowsill should supply you with basil for many, many months.
The one place you can always find it is the supermarket, but these plants are grown as perishables, to be bought, sheared off and discarded. Attempts to keep supermarket basil going for longer than a couple of weeks often end in disappointment and this adds to the impression that basil is tricky to grow. Supermarket basil can indeed be difficult to keep going on the kitchen counter or windowsill, but when you consider how it is planted - densely sown in a small pot, transported in a dark lorry and held in a refrigerated stock room - it isn’t at all surprising. Basil won’t tolerate being wet or cold. It will, however, shrug off the occasional drying out - a good soak for an hour and the wilted plant will pick up and recover with no lasting ill effects. In short, basil will live happily for months on end 10
Basil loves the heat
Basil in hanging planter
Most garden centres steer clear of basil as the losses are too great to make stocking it worthwhile, so there are only two basil varieties that are routinely available as plants in the UK – Genovese basil (aka sweet basil) and, rarely, Greek basil, and these are largely confined to supermarket shelves and specialist nurseries. There are, however, a delicious, tempting array of other varieties that are readily available
The August 2019 issue of Cornwall Country Gardener Magazine