The secret to good cooking is using fresh ingredients. This is doubly true when we’re talking about herbs.
When you cook with fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano your food simply tastes better than when you substitute in the dried equivalent. But there’s one herb that stands out in particular when it comes to the difference in flavor between fresh and dried—basil.
As a member of the Boston Organics Community, you’re fortunate to have access to fresh-cut, organic basil almost year round thanks to our local farm partner, Happy Valley Organics.
Each year, Happy Valley shares a few of their potted plants with us so that you can grow basil right in our own home. It doesn’t get more local than that!
But if there’s nothing better than homegrown basil, then there’s nothing worse than letting that basil plant die. Here are four things you should do to keep your basil plant alive.
1. Basil Needs Space
Like an uncommitted boyfriend, basil plants just need some space. Your pot of basil will likely come with a few different seedlings, but if you don’t take care of them, they’ll crowd each other out. You can transplant all of them into a larger pot or a garden bed (with about 12 inches between plants) or simply weed out a few of the weakest ones, leaving 3-4 of strongest seedlings to do their thing. Sure, it’s a little Darwinian, but it’s hard to complain when you’ve got a bowl full of pesto.
2. Basil Loves Light
Like a wannabe Broadway star, basil just loves the spotlight. If you’re planting your basil outside, make sure it’s not in the shadow of your house or a tree. You can definitely keep a healthy basil plant indoors, but you’ll want to make sure it gets at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. A kitchen windowsill is often your best bet.
3. Basil Likes to Be Picked
Like an unathletic fourth grader during PE, basil just wants to be picked. Regularly plucking leaves actually helps encourage the plant to grow. Keep trimming back the center stem to force the plant to become a little bushier and every time a branch has more than eight leaves, you should harvest a few—making sure there are still enough for the plant to photosynthesize. Finally, remember to pinch off any flower buds you see forming or else the leaves will turn bitter as the plant bolts.
4. Basil Thirsts for Water
Like a box of instant cake mix, basil plants just need water. Keep the soil of your basil plants slightly moist at all times. Depending on how much sun your basil gets, you might need to water your basil plant every 1-2 days. But make sure that the pot has good drainage, because soggy soil can lead to rotting roots.
Now that you’re an expert basil grower, you’re going to have a whole bunch of basil to work with.
If you want to order additional potted basil plants, you can do so on our seasonal add-on produce page.