Basil: Ocimum basilicum
Basil is a very popular and easy herb to grow in your garden. Basil, a member of the mint family, has very aromatic leaves that are great for seasoning and cooking. It grows from a thick taproot and sprouts leaves that are about 3-11 cm long and 1-6 cm wide. They can reach about 130 cm tall and when it flowers it is a small white flower that blooms at the top. Basil likes warm weather and needs about 6 hours of sunlight per day.
Plant basil indoors for about 6-8 weeks before planting it outside in well-drained, but moist soil. To keep the plant productive and to prevent bolting, regularly pinch off and use basil leaves. It is very sensitive to frost so make sure that you plant after the last frost date. When watering, be careful to avoid the leaves as it can cause brown spots. When the top inch of soil is dry be sure to water. Cut or pinch any flower stalks that grow. You can harvest your basil anytime after it reaches a height of about 20 cm. Pinching the leaves regularly helps production.
Basil is used in many culinary dishes, and pairs well with other herbs like oregano, thyme, parsley, and so on. Using fresh basil it is best to wait to add it to your dish towards the end of cooking to preserve its flavor. To store basil, do not put it in the fridge as the leaves will turn brown. Instead freeze them or dry them, though drying basil results in some flavor lost.
Some companion plants for basil include apricot, asparagus, tomato, fennel, cucumber, and chives. Inoculation with Azospirillum brasilense may help increase the nutritional value of your basil.