This popular annual herb is an essential ingredient in Italian cooking with strongly flavoured leaves that can be used to perk up tomato dishes or blitzed to make pesto sauce. Seeds are best sown indoors in late winter or early spring for plants that can be grown outdoors in summer, providing leaves that can harvested well into the autumn.
How to grow
- Plant basil outside after all danger of frost has passed, choosing a sunny, sheltered spot with well-drained soil or grow plants in containers. You can keep a plant in a pot going all summer long by moving it into a slightly bigger container every time roots show through the drainage holes in the bottom – plants could end up in a 20cm (8in) container.
- Basil hates having wet roots overnight, so aim to water plants in the morning if possible.
- Keep plants bushy and productive by pinching the tips of branches regularly and remove any flowers that start to develop.
Remove leaves as required or harvest entire plants if lots of leaves are needed to make sauces. If only a few leaves are required, remove the tops of plants to encourage bushy growth.
Large, bright green sweet leaves that are brilliant with mozzarella and tomatoes.
Huge leaves for perfect pesto.
- ‘Siam Queen’:
Tasty, slightly hairy oval leaves are great for Thai cooking.
Bushy plant with aromatic red-veined green leaves.
- ‘Purple Ruffles’:
Showy dark leaves which are heavily fringed.