Basil is a very aromatic, bushy annual that grows very well as a house plant. Basil is a staple in the indoor herb garden, and probably one of the best herbs for hydroponic sytems. Basil stems can be rooted in water and will often grow there happily without ever being transplanted into soil or soilless mix.
Types of Basil Plants
Basil types range from dwarf varieties that grow only 6 to 8 inches in diameter to larger bushes reaching 2 ft. or more in height. Flavors vary depending upon the strength and character of the oil in the leaves.
Here are some popular varieties of basil growing in our indoor herb garden:
click to enlarge
Plant tray, back row: Genovese (Sweet Italian) Basil, Lemon Basil, Basil Fino Verde
Front row: Basil Aroma, Greek Basil, Lime Basil, Basil ‘Spicy Globe’
In the background: Sweet mini baby bell peppers growing in an Aerogarden, and a tray of thunbergia plantlets.
- Sweet basil (also called Basil Genovese, or sweet Italian basil) – this is the most popular, “common” variety of basil for Italian recipes, pesto sauce, etc. Indispensable to the kitchen garden
- Lemon basil – a small-leaved variety, small plant variety, with a strong lemon scent and flavor. Excellent for adding flavor to salads, salad dressings, and teas
- Greek basil – a very compact and bushy plant with tiny leaves. Fragrance is that of anise and clove, and an excellent addition to tomato-based dishes
- Lime basil – a compact grower with small light green leaves scented like citrus lime and sweet basil
- Aromatto basil (Basil ‘Aroma’) – has large, flat purple leaves and aromatic, spicy scented leaves. Grows tall (up to 18 in.)
- Basil ‘Spicy Globe’ – A compact hybrid that grows in a small, perfect globe. Excellent for containers and (we hope) indoor plant stands
Purple basil and cinnamon basil are also very popular varieties of basil for the kitchen herb garden.
How to Grow Basil Indoors
Basil seeds can be sown in pre-moistened peat plugs or Jiffy® pellets, or any moistened, well-drained seed-starting mix. Sow the seeds at room temperature (70-75F) about 1/8″ deep and one to two inches apart and place under lights or in a bright windowsill.chive seeds in a bright window or under lights. If you have a dry environment you will have the best results using a covered seed propagator, and if your environment is cool or the indoor temperature drops significantly at night a heat mat will help germinate your basil seeds.
Basil seedlings in starter plugs
Basil seeds germinate and grow exceptionally quickly when planted in an AeroGarden herb-growing system. If you use the Master Gardeners’ Kit you can sow and grow healthy basil plants of any variety all year round.
You can start using leaves from your basil plant after the second set of “true” leaves emerges. (The first set of green leaves are the cotyledons, or embryonic leaves.) Once the second set of leaves emerge and are large enough for your use, pinch off those leaves above the node, which will cause the plant to branch out. Soon you will have a full, bushy plant and lots of lots of fresh basil.
Herb scissors are useful when harvesting basil leaves.
Drying Basil / Freezing Basil
The best tasting basil is fresh basil. Dried basil and frozen basil just can’t compare to fresh basil leaves. But if you have a large harvest and want to preserve basil, freezing is recommended over drying since much of the flavor is lost in the drying process.
If you decide to dry your basil, pick the leaves just before the plant flowers. To freeze basil, coat each side of each leave with olive oil and layer the leaves flat between sheets of wax paper and freeze in a plastic freezer container. You can also store whole basil leaves in olive oil and use as needed.
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