How to Grow Basil and Get Its Great Benefits – Basil, known as the king of herbs, is a must in the kitchen. The fragrant pale green leaves of this semi-hardly plant are covered with very fine soft hair-like fibers and small oil cells on the undersides.
The leaves are very important because they are the only part of the plant used for cooking. There are several types of basil but the most common one used for flavoring is the sweet basil, the lemon basil (which has a slightly lemony taste), the sacred basil, and the reddish basil.
Planting and harvesting basil fresh from your own backyard is easy. In the Philippines, basil can be grown with other herbs such as parsley, oregano, thyme and sage. They thrive well in well-drained porous soil and should be watered regularly. It must be planted in locations that are sunny but partly shaded in mid-afternoons. Using an overhead net to filter the midday sun helps in saving the plant from a scorching. Though heavy winds can be disastrous to the basil plants, as they have soft bodies and branches, you can minimize it by planting wind breakers to buffer it from strong winds.
If you want to keep the plant young don’t allow the flowers to open. Cut off the flower stems before the buds open. Leaves must also be harvested before the buds open to obtain its maximum flavor. Leaving some of the leaves alone on the lower part of the plant allows for another harvesting.
Fertilizing is not really necessary but an occasional application of organic fertilizers will help keep the basil plant lush. Pesticides must be used with extreme care, as the leaves are very delicate. Spraying should be done very lightly.
The versatility of the basil is proven in chicken, fish, and met dishes, as well as in a wide variety of sauces. For sauces, use a generous quantity of fresh leaves. However, reduce the amount in half when using dried ones.
To dry basil, tie several branches and hang them to air dry for about two to three days. Keep the dried leaves in airtight containers for storage, and do not crush them until they are to be used.
Source: Chat Alejandro, Manila Bulletin