The Italian Basilico is the most popular and well-loved herb in Italy. No savory Italian recipe is complete without it.
Italian Basil is part of the Lamiaceae Family, more commonly known as Mint. It is also one of the essential and primary ingredients in Pesto – using this herb will ensure that your Italian cooking tastes just like your Nonna made it.
Go on, use sweet basil, and make your famiglia proud!
Italian Basil – How to recognize it?
Ciao! Traditionally, only two types of Basil is prevalent when it comes to cooking Italian Style. Both varietals are classified as being a type of sweet basil, but there are notable differences. The two types are known as:
Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
This basil plant is a cultivar of the Ocimum basilicum subspecies. It grows between 12 to 24 inches tall. It produces sets of smaller leaves between 2-3 inches in margin and is darker in color with the slightest hint of purple.
The pallet is exotic in nature and boasts with an aromatic blend of licorice and anise, accompanied by a subtle hint of mint.
Genovese Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese’)
This type of Italian Basil grows between 24 to 30 inches in height and has a distinct leaf structure. The leaves are strikingly bright green and have a large circumference with a prominent flower stalk that is purple in color.
When it comes to the flavor profile, it is more robust compared to the sweet basil plant, with tones of aniseed and cloves.
It is also a cultivar of the Ocimum basilicum subspecies.
Both of these varieties grow into beautiful bush-like shrubs when the leaves are pinched back.
Why grow Basil?
There are a plethora of reasons spanning from health benefits to advantages associated with beauty, that will make you run to the nearest plant nursery to purchase seeds or seedlings of Basil plants and growing Basil indoors.
Ten reasons include:
- Basil is absolutely stress-free to grow. So even if you are not known for your green fingers, Basil has you covered. So you don’t have to fret about this dying on you quickly.
- They make the best companion plants. This means that they bode well as partners to plants such as tomatoes that are also easy to grow indoors from an urban gardening perspective. By just using these two, you are already halfway to producing your own organic plant material for authentic Mediterranean cooking. Another benefit of planting your own Basil is that you are well on your way to sustainability in terms of nutrition for you and your family.
- Aesthetically pleasing. Basil can produce beautiful scenery to your home if you consider letting some of it grow long enough to flower and reward all your “hard” work.
- Basil can be grown in a pot, therefore it can produce food in even the most space restricted homes.
- Attracting beneficial insects. Basil is known to attract insects like bees and butterflies that are highly advantageous to it’s growing process.
- Deterring the bad bugs. Guess what? Only only does it enchant the good bugs, but it also puts off insects like the pesky flies and asparagus beetles.
- Create your own wholesome and flavourful dishes such as Basil Pesto to enjoy.
- Have your ice cream, and eat it! The nutritional content of this herb will amaze you. Read further on in our article to discover more.
- It has great medicinal benefits, such as its natural anti-inflammatory properties.
- Basil is excellent for your skin; your dermis will thank you for it by keeping you looking younger for longer with the regular application of Basil oil and soaps.
Here are some easy step by step instructions on how to grow basil indoors and growing from seeds specifically:
- Basil Seeds
- Old Plastic tub
- Plastic Dome
- Seed starting mix
- Spray bottle
- Starter pots with drainage holes
- Sunny windowsill
- Collect all of your material and place them on your designated working space.
- Ready the soil by adding the dry soil mixture, and water to the plastic tub and combining well. Ensure that just enough water is used to moisten the soil, do not overwater it. The best approach is to add bits of water at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. It is also recommended to use your hand (wear a glove if necessary) in mixing and feeling the soil.
- Fill the desired pot for your seeds between ½ to 1 inch below the top with the moisten soil mixture.
- Plant a few seeds in each starter pot by placing the seeds on the top and pressing them down gently with your finger.
- If the seeds are not in a little sachet, cover them with a sprinkling of dry soil on top to cover them.
- Mist your seeds with the spray bottle. If any seeds are exposed during this process, cover them gently again.
- Place the dome cover on top of your starter pots to lock in the moisture and do not water the seeds again until they sprout.
- Place the planter in a sunny location like a windowsill and check on them every day. Sprouts can be expected in as little as three to five days.
- Once the sprouting has taken place, remove the dome cover and keep in a sunny spot.
Here are some of our best tips (ssshhhttt, it’s a secret!) for you to try when cultivating your own basil indoors:
- Preferably plant with seeds in the warmer months of the year.
- Basil plants indoors, require soil that drains really well.
- They require at least six hours of good sunlight a day.
- Water the basil often in hot temperatures.
- Remember, the more you prune your basil, the faster it will reward you…well, with more basil of course.
Growing basil indoors means that the plants will render the most vegetation when fertilized once a month with a liquid seaweed fertilizer. This type of feed is also ideal for keeping insects at bay that are bad for your plants.
Different uses of Basil in Italian Culture
Apart from cooking, Basil can be used in the following ways as well:
- Hair Treatments
- Soap Making
Harvesting and Preserving Basil
It is best to approach growing basil indoors by determining how much basil is needed for the number of occupants in your home and also how frequently you will use the herb. Approach it with the end in mind of not growing and cutting off more than you will use to avoid wastage.
Basil is ready to be harvested when the plants have reached an approximate height between 6-8 inches and are best harvested early in the morning. It is normally ready for plucking between 50-60 days after planting.
Light and Temperature Requirements
They require at least six hours of sunlight a day. The optimal temperature to grow basil in is between 72.5 ℉ and 82.4 ℉.
Basil plants also prefer a soil pH level that is between 5.5 and 7.5.
Pests and Diseases Affecting Basil
Some common pests and diseases that are commonly found when cultivating Basil and how to eradicate the problems are:
- Slugs – Pick the slugs off at night when they are not active and add eggshells to soil on the surface around the plants.
- Cercospora leaf spot – Water the plants from the base.
- Downy mildew – Don’t wet the foliage.
- Grey mold – Remove old and/or invested leaves.
- Aphids – Pour some canola oil on the soil surface.
The final say
In totality, there are over 150 different types of Basil found worldwide of which the Sweet Basil is the most common type. Due to it being so easy to cultivate and care for, growing Basil all over the world is highly possible, with a great success rate. There is no reason for you not to be sweet on Basil (pun intended). Buona Cresita!
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