Basil is one of our most popular culinary herbs and belongs to the mint family. Basil is used to make pesto sauce, flavour many dishes and salads, and is well accepted as the perfect partner to tomatoes. It is traditionally used in Italian, Mediterranean and Thai dishes, blends beautifully with garlic, thyme and lemon and also works well with fish, pasta, cheese or eggs.
Other uses include drying leaves for potpourri and using fresh leaves as a herb tea to help with digestion. Basil can be frozen in ice cubes and leaves can be preserved by blanching in vinegar or oil and then blended with cheese, pinenuts or other seeds/nuts to make pesto which freezes well if sealed with a layer of olive oil.
- Sweet basil is one of the most common varieties grown but there’s something for everyone in the basil family.
- Lemon (Ocimum americanum) and Lime basil both of which suit seafood dishes, soups and salads.
- Nufar (a mild flavour with just a hint of anise).
- Greek Mini (a compact small leafed basil which particularly suits pots as it only grows to 30cm).
- Thai (Ocimum basilicum) which has a sweet anise-clove fragrance and hint of mint and citrus - flavours that go well in curries.
- Of course, for a change of colour, there’s also Purple basil.
|This is the ideal time to snip them off the plant.|
Eventually they will start to turn brown which house mature seeds inside.
- Add the seed heads to a clean calico bag or pillowcase. Rub them vigorously between your hands, scrunching the bag regularly to remove the chaff and allow the seeds to drop to the bottom of the bag.
|Alternatively, use a rolling pin to crush the seed heads.|
- When you can see all the seeds, tip them out onto a shallow tray ready to blow the chaff off.
- Another tool you can use is a strainer or sieve with appropriate sized holes or mesh to allow the seeds to remain while the chaff is rubbed through the bottom and onto a tray.
- Gently blow the chaff (plant matter) off the tray or use a small pastry or art brush to remove it.
- Then you'll have clean seed you can package in a small self-seal bag.
- Remove all air from the bag first after adding your seeds and pop in the freezer for a couple of days to kill any stowaway insects like weevils!
- Then store in a dark, cool place until you need them for planting.
- Make sure to label with the variety, date and source.
Plan on plenty of pesto next season!