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Growing Basil

Fresh basil can make all the difference in some recipes. Easy to grow indoors or out. Easy to grow new plants from your old ones. Easy to love. Why not give it a try?

I. Love. Basil. Let me count the ways:

1. Taste (duh)

2. Easy to grow

3. Buy one plant and never need to buy another one

4. Can be grown year round

There are some recipes out there that you just can't make with dried basil leaves. Bruschetta chicken. Thai basil and chicken. Pizza margherita. Chicken parmesan. The list goes on. I've discovered that, rather than go out and buy fresh basil from the store for $3-5 every time I need it for a recipe, growing my own is more economical and convenient.

I've been growing my own basil now for over 15 years. Not without breaks though. I've moved across the country twice in that time. Which means that I've grown it in different states, as well as indoors, outdoors, in containers, in various seasons, etc.

Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow. Why? Mostly because basil is very communicative. She will tell you when she's thirsty - wilting leaves. If its environment is too hot, the plant will bolt - go to seed. If you find dark brown spots on your leaves, basil is complaining that you watered her leaves instead of her stem/roots and that beautiful sun that she normally loves burned her!

Basil can grow quite large in the right conditions, but you can also keep the plant small if desired.

You also don't need any pollinators since you want the leaves, unless of course you want seeds. But, as I'll show you, you really don't need seeds to have a continual supply of basil plants!

To multiply your basil, read on!


Step: 1If you don't already have a basil plant, purchase one (from a nursery or even from your grocery store - needs to be a pot with roots though) or grow from seed.

Step 2: When the basil plant gets tall (aka leggy), pinch or cut off the tops of stems so that you have about 4 leaves above the cut and at least 2 below the cut. I've cut off a few more leaves in the picture below so I had a longer stem. I wanted it to reach the water in the container I will be using. Also, I wanted to use some basil leaves anyway!

I simply pinch off the leaves at the bottom of the cutting until I had just a few leaves left on the top.

Step 3: Place the cut portion of the basil in a small cup of water with the leaves above water. I used a little plastic ramekin and punched holes in the top with a hole puncher.

I like to do quite a few plants at the same time cuz...why not? It's not any more work, and basil plants need to be pruned anyway to keep them bushy and strong. (See the brown spots on the leaves? Sunburn. Sorry basil! Still getting used to our new environment after the move.)

Step 4: Keep it in a warm place that receives some sun, even if indirect. I like to put my basil on a heating pad with a UV light on it because I'm ridiculous and like things out of the way where they can't be seen. So this is in my laundry room. You don't have to be ridiculous like me though. You can simply keep it on your counter.

Step 5: This is the hard part! Allow basil to stay in water for up to two weeks. Ensure that the basil stems are continually in water. Refill the cup as the water evaporates.

After a few days, you will notice some thin white roots coming from the stem. It's working! When they grow to around 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, it's time to plant.

Step 6: Fill a small pot with soil and gently place the roots and lower part of the stem into a hole deep enough to allow the roots to stretch out a bit. Leaves should be above the soil. Water your friendly little one.

Voila! Your new basil plant! Now treat it like you would any other basil plant, keeping in mind how your basil communicates with you.

Basil needs to be pruned to help the plant grow into a bush rather than a tall, weak structure. Pruning also helps to prevent the basil from bolting. If you notice the tops of the basil looking like the picture below, that means the plant is getting ready to flower. Note that this is a Thai Basil variety, so the leaves are purple, which make the budding flowers easier to see. With other sweet basil varieties, these little leaves that eventually turn into flowers will be green instead of purple.

Flowering will ruin the flavor of the leaves, so unless you want to collect seeds and be done with collecting leaves, prune off the leaves and top portions of the stems when those small green leaves start to form at the top, even if you don't need the leaves for cooking right now. Grow more basil plants from them, or just stick them in a little water at room temperature to keep them alive so you can use them up in a couple of days.

And don't forget to make these tasty recipes when you harvest!

Chicken Parmesan

Bruschetta Chicken Wrap

Pizza Margherita

Thai Basil and Chicken

Happy growing!

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