Connecticut Garden Journal: Experiment With Basil | Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut Garden Journal: Experiment With Basil

Jul 30, 2020

Basil is one of those quintessential tastes of summer. Growing up, it reminds me of my mom's eggplant parmesan, Caprese salad and tomato sauce. You can't grow tomatoes without growing some basil.

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While Genovese basil is the primary desire of many cooks, especially for pesto making, there are a number of other basils that are also tasty. I first experienced Thai basil when I lived in Thailand in the Peace Corps. Thai basil has a spicy, anise flavor and is used in many famous Thai noodle dishes. Lemon or lime basil adds a sour tang to fish, grilled veggies and teas. Cinnamon basil adds spice to drinks, cookies and pies. Look for these unusual basils at your farmer's markets or grocery store and experiment with the flavors.

Back in your garden, when harvesting basil, don't be timid. Strip off entire stems back to the main stem or to just above two leaves on that stem. This makes for faster harvesting and stimulates the plant to regrow stems with larger leaves. It's a good way to avoid getting smaller leaves as the summer progresses.

Another fun project is to take basil cuttings for fall. Snip off a 6-inch piece of stem right below a set of leaves, strip off all but the top leaves, dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder and stick it in a pot filled with moistened potting soil. Place in a bright room out of the direct sunlight, keep watered and it should root in a few weeks. You'll have a small, potted basil to grow and enjoy, in a sunny window into fall.