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Guide to Growing & Using Basil

Basil has a distinctive and delicious flavour and a beautiful aroma when brushed with your hand which makes it a must for the vege and/or herb garden.
Karen
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Basil has a distinctive and delicious flavour and a beautiful aroma when brushed with your hand which makes it a must for the vege and/or herb garden. There are many varieties so there is always something to suit most taste preferences. We have 15 different ones to tempt you with the most popular being the Sweet Genovese in our organic category.

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We also supply the Sweet Genovese as a microgreen if you are looking for some bigger packs.


GROWING Basil

The most important growing tip we can give is that Basil is best grown once nighttime temperatures are staying above 15ºC. It doesn't like the cold so sowing your first crop mid to late October and then successive sowings every 3-4 weeks should give you a good supply through the summer and into autumn, particularly if, like me, you make lots of pesto.

Another tip is to avoid sowing your basil seed too deep. The rule of thumb for seed is no deeper than the size of the seed. Starting your seed off in seed raising mix is a good idea but direct sowing can be successful too once it is warm enough.

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Once your plants are thriving you can pick out the tops of the young shoots, and this will encourage the plant to bush outwards and inhibit flowering until later. Watering is crucial particularly in the warmer days of summer as basil (like most herbs) will go to flower quickly if it is dry and stressed.

Unfortunately the aphids and whitefly love your basil too. A good blast with the hose tends to discourage them from sitting on your plants feasting.

Basil generally takes 60-70 days to mature from transplant but as mentioned above, it is suitable for growing and using as a microgreen too.

If you are a fan of making pesto, try growing the Basil Genovese Giant or the Basil Lettuce Leaf. The bigger leaves will give you plenty of bulk for whizzing up when making your pesto.

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Growing the small leaf varieties like Basil Bush, Greek Mini and Fino Verde lend themselves to using the leaves whole in your cooking.

If you like a nice surprise plant a packet of the Gourmet Blend which will give you a great chance to try several varieties.




USING Basil

Basil is best picked just before use. This maintains the full flavour and stops the leaves from bruising and wilting.

When using basil rip the leaves rather than cutting them, especially when adding them as a garnish or to a salad. When cut, the leaves tend to go black as it seems to react with the metal of the knife.

Have you heard that a big bunch of basil on the windowsill or on the kitchen bench is supposed to help deter flies? Of course the bonus is the lovely aroma in your kitchen.  

Have you tried frying basil leaves in a little oil? Just do a few leaves at a time and only fry for 20 seconds before removing and placing on paper towel. Then use as a garnish on your dish. These leaves can be used whole or crushed.

Some great flavour combos are:

Basil & Lemon
- Cake (see below for a delicious recipe worth trying)
- Spritzer
- Pasta of any kind
- Baked chicken

Basil & chocolate
- Mousse using white chocolate
- Dark chocolate truffles
- Brownie

Basil & Tomato
- Margherita pizza
- Bruschetta
- Salad
- Sauce for pasta or meatballs


basil lemon cake-635

Basil & Lemon Cake
I found this recipe online and decided it was worth trying. Due to it being a little unusual I asked the Kings Seeds team to give me their feedback and they were really positive. It is a good balance between the herb and citrus flavours with the basil being nice and subtle but still enough to satisfy basil lovers like myself.  It would also be easy to cook a vegan version by swapping out the yoghurt to non-dairy yoghurt and using an egg replacement. So here is the recipe. Hope you give it a go.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup castor sugar (standard sugar ok too)
  • grated zest of 2 lemons
  • ¾ cup yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ cup oil (vegetable, rapeseed or olive)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup basil (finely chopped)
For the Glaze
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon milk

WHAT TO DO
1. Preheat oven to 170ºC.
2. Grease a 20cm cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper.
3. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
4. In a medium to large bowl, mix sugar and lemon zest with fingers until it looks like sand.
5. Add yoghurt & lemon juice and beat well.
6. Add oil, eggs, vanilla & basil and beat until well mixed.
7. Fold in the dry mixture until just combined.
8. Pour into cake tin.
9. Cook for 40-50 minutes until skewer comes out clean.
10. Leave cake to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from tin and leave to cool before drizzling with glaze.
11. Make the glaze by combining ingredients. If required, add a little water or more lemon juice to get good consistency for drizzling.

Ingredients basil lemon cake-190

Click on this Basil link to see what varieties we have and enjoy trying some you haven't grown before.
 
Karen
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