Years ago an old farmer told my young boys that when they started dating, a big bunch of sweet basil in the car would win a girl’s heart. Now, I don’t know about that, but it’s definitely a must-have in my garden.
Sweet basil is a culinary herb used frequently in Italian cooking and is the base for our favorite pesto.
But besides girls and pesto and Italian food, here’s another reason to grow it: Bees.
Bees love basil
While we humans love basil for its pungent leaves, the bees love it for the flowers. Trouble is, in order to maintain a continuous harvest of sweet basil leaves all summer long, the flower heads need to be removed. Allowed to flower, the plants will go to seed and stop producing those fresh lovely leaves.
Luckily, there’s an easy solution. Plant several extra basil plants. Once you’ve harvested the first batch of leaves, allow a few plants to go into flowering mode. The bees will appreciate it, and you can continue harvesting leaves from the plants you’ve designated as “yours.”
Basil likes warm weather, heat, and well-drained soil. Direct sow seeds after frost, once the ground has warmed. Trust me; trying to get a jump on it by planting too soon will just waste seeds. If you opt to start seedlings for transplanting, a heat mat to increase the soil temperature will greatly improve your odds. Water deeply and regularly, and side dress with compost or well aged manure.
Harvesting sweet basil
Simply use scissors to trim off the upper leaf clusters, making your cut close to the set of leaves below. Often, you’ll need to cut more than one leaf cluster, and that’s okay. Just be sure to snip right above the set of leaves you’re planning to leave on the plant. New growth will sprout from that point so you can continue to harvest throughout the season. For more detail information on harvesting, go here.
I use fresh basil all summer long snipped into in salads, wraps, sandwiches, and for flavoring soups and pasta. By far, though, our favorite way to use it is to make pesto. We spread pesto as a base for wraps, on egg salad sandwiches, and of course in pasta dishes. I freeze pesto in small glass jars for use all through the winter months. I love adding spoonfuls of it to soup! My pesto recipe is here.
20+ Ways to Use Basil (that are NOT pesto)
- DIY Herb Saute Cubes [Preparedness Mama]
- Preserving the Harvest [Schneiderpeeps]
- Basil Garlic Aioli [Self Proclaimed Foodie]
- Roasted Tomato Basil Soup [Cooking Classy]
- Basil Chimichurri [Go Go Go Gourmet]
- Three Ways to Preserve Your Harvest [Preparedness Mama]
- Peach Basil Salsa [Homestead Honey]
- Orange Basil Dressing [Green Healthy Cooking]
- Basil Oil [Real Food Real Deals]
- Basil Ice Cream [A Beautiful Plate]
- Basil Cheesecake [Food Network]
- Strawberry Basil Bruschetta [Jo Cooks]
- Basil Butter [My Recipe Magic]
- Strawberry Basil Moscow Mule [Marla Maridith]
- Basil Salt [The Rising Spoon]
- Blueberry Basil Tart [Baking Part Time]
- Fontina & Blackberry Basil Grilled Cheese [How Sweet it is]
- Lemon Basil Mojito [Cookie and Kate]
- White Bean Artichoke Basil Toasts [Pinch of Yum]
- Caprese Quinoa Salad [Simply Quinoa]
- Parmesan Basil and Lemon Wafer [Food Network]
- Herbed Sel Gris [Joybilee Farm]