Basil is the easiest herb to grow. If you are ever considering starting an herb garden, start with basil – outdoors. You can’t go wrong. Basil loves lots of light and water. It prefers moist soil, so keep it watered. I find that I have very little issue with insects or fungus with basil which living through very humid summers on the East Coast, that’s quite a wonderful growing experience!
Growing basil indoors is a bit more tricky and requires a lot of light. I find even with my grow lights, the plants end up being more spindly and just not as lush, but I’m always working toward better results.
This year, I had purchased seeds (I highly recommend Eden Brothers which is where I get the majority of my seeds). In fact, here’s a link straight to the Basil Seeds Page…. Look at all of the varieties. I use traditional Sweet Basil. Many years ago, I would be in the grocery store and think a great shortcut was to grab a bundle of basil in the little planters and take it home and try to use it. They are not designed to be that hardy. They always died, no matter what I did. Growing from seed seems to help them establish themselves in the current environment.
I’m always about reusing what you have – I built these old hay bins for my horses but one in particular thought it was a game to turn them over every morning to get at whatever hay morsels were underneath. These bins are over 100 pounds each, and every morning, my petite daughter or myself had to turn them over and shimmy them back in place. As soon as I could, I replaced them, but I didn’t want to trash these… they had to be good for something, right? So I took the bottoms out and altered them so that the bottom was raised up inside and the soil is about 12 inches deep. On a whim, I threw some tomato plants in with the basil, but I’d have to say, the basil is loving it here. On an added note, basil is supposed to help keep insects away, so planting it near our fire pit was the way to go so we can help deter pests while we relax.
Every week, I go out and cut the basil back. I cut it down to where the second set of leaves are. If you look carefully at the stem, you can see the leaves grow in groups/tiers. Cutting basil encourages growth… wow… every week, I’m cutting at least a bucket full. Do I need this much basil? No… but I don’t want to see it go to waste either.
I start by washing the leaves. If there are any spots or really, anything on the leaf that is a flaw, I don’t use it.
One method of drying is to bundle and hang, but in my opinion, basil is way too thick of a leaf to do this efficiently. You are just asking for mold to develop if you are not careful.
I prefer cutting the leaves off of the stem. I set myself up at my coffee table with a pair of clean scissors, the clean basil leaves, and a TV remote (because why not?). Oh yeah, and I dry my herbs on a screen. I pulled some old picture frames out of storage and stapled brand new plastic screen in them. This helps to maintain air circulation.
Best Way to Dry Basil
My mother offered this suggestion and I followed it and it is now my favorite way to dry basil – roll the leaves up and cut them, while rolled, into strips. Once I’m done, I set the frame on my kitchen table. A few times a day, I move the basil around so that the wet parts are more exposed. This aids in a more rapid drying process.
Within 48 to 72 hours, my basil is usually completely dry.
After that, I store in jars.
I also freeze some basil at the end of the season or after I have enough dried. My goal is to keep my plants growing so I can harvest fresh when my tomatoes are ripe and ready for canning.