Herbs

Basil - notes on planting, care and use

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Basil refines various dishes and also has a healing effect. Here you will learn how to properly plant and care for this universal herb.

© David / stock.adobe.com

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is one of the most popular culinary herbs. The small, aromatic leaves are indispensable in Mediterranean cuisine. For many, the spicy herb is the epitome of vacation in the south.

How the heat-loving plant can also be successfully cultivated in our latitudes and what valuable ingredients are in the flavorful culinary herb can be found out below.

Botany

Basil is one of the labiate plants and is also called basil. The plants release intense aromas that attract insects. The content of essential oils is particularly high because the active ingredients are found throughout the sprout.

The basil plant genus includes around 30 species, which are native to warm to tropical regions worldwide. In the following we discuss the annual basil, which is widespread in our latitudes and is often offered in herb pots in supermarkets.

Ingredients

Immediately before and during the flowering period, the content of valuable ingredients is highest.

The following ingredients give the plant taste and aroma:

  • linalol
  • methylchavicol
  • eugenol
  • tannins
  • flavonoids
  • caffeic acid

Basil exudes a fresh smell. The taste is strong and spicy and is reminiscent of tarragon, thyme or cloves.

Origin

The origin of the plant can be found in India. Basil was sacred to the Indians and has been cultivated there for around 1,000 years. Basil was already known in the Mediterranean area in ancient times. In ancient Rome, the plant was synonymous with hate. The Romans believed that the leaves would turn into scorpions. The German popular belief, however, appreciates basil as a symbol of sympathy.

Today basil is grown in the tropics and temperate climates. Leading growing areas are in Italy and France. Cultivation outdoors is generally difficult in Germany. The yields are of little concern for commercial cultivation. Plants from the Netherlands are often offered on the German market. These come from growing under glass.

Basil in the kitchen

Basil goes well with tomato dishes - © lilechka75 / stock.adobe.com

Basil can be used fresh and dried. Dried basil largely retains its flavor and is long-lasting. Sliced ​​cabbage can be kept in the fridge and wrapped in foil for several days. The flavors are largely retained even when freezing. Leaves and shoots can be used. The herb is cleaned and chopped and can be kept in the freezer for several months.

Basil is used in both hot and cold dishes. Tomato dishes are most often refined with basil. Tomatoes with mozzarella or tomato soup are the most well-known dishes that cannot do without a note of basil. Meat dishes or fish can also be seasoned with basil.

The spice is used sparingly and if possible only added to the food at the end of the cooking time. Greasy dishes are an exception. These are easier to digest if you cook basil with them.

Basil in medicine

Basil owes its health significance to the high content of essential oils. The healing and protective properties of the flavonoids contained also play a role. Basil has a general strengthening, antispasmodic, calming and appetizing effect.

In natural medicine, basil is recommended for:

  • indigestion
  • fever
  • migraine
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • biliousness

Decoctions can be used as a garlic solution for mouth and throat infections. When used externally, the herb can help alleviate insect bites.

Attention: Anyone who is allergic to lip-blossoms such as peppermint, marjoram or thyme must expect cross-reactions when eating basil.

Some pretty strains

Different varieties were grown from the basil. These differ in the shape of the foliage and in the aroma.

varietyparticularity
mammoth
  • vigorous, compact growth
  • large leaves
Chianti
  • particularly aromatic
  • red leaves
lemon basil
  • strong in taste
  • typical lemon aroma
African blue
  • robust
  • ideal for outdoor cultivation
  • Leaves have red veins
Aristotle
  • classic foliage color
  • Aroma reminiscent of cloves
Wildis purple
  • robust
  • ideal for outdoor cultivation
  • Purple leaves
Italian star
  • large leaves
  • intense aroma

Plant basil

Find the right location

Basil needs a warm and sunny location. The plants will thrive less well in the shade because they are sensitive to a damp and cool environment. Cultivation is possible in the plant pot as well as outdoors.

Tip: If the ambient temperatures fall below twelve degrees, growth problems result and the growth is often even completely stopped.

If the climatic conditions are appropriate, outdoor cultivation is preferable to keeping on the windowsill.

Shortly:

    • bright
    • warm
    • sunny
    • protected

Choose the ideal substrate

Choose a loose and well-drained soil. The soil of the plants offered in the herb pot should be replaced if possible after purchase, because it is often of inferior quality.

Basil needs sufficient nutrients and is sensitive to waterlogging. In a heavy and damp soil, the plants are quickly infected and atrophy.

It is advisable to use special herbal soil. The substrate is more permeable and ensures better water drainage. However, there are hardly any nutrients. Herbal soil must therefore be enriched with fertilizer before use.

Shortly:

    • relaxed
    • permeable
    • humus
    • nutritious
    • quickly heatable

Planting instructions

A distinction must be made here whether basil should be grown outdoors or cultivated in a plant pot.

One-year-old basil can be sown directly in the field after the ice saints, from mid-May. The preculture in the cold frame is possible from mid-April. When sowing, care must be taken to maintain an appropriate planting distance. For this purpose, the young plants are pricked out after germination. A too narrow planting distance can lead to fungal attack and destroy the plants in a humid climate.

Basil can also be sown directly in planters. This is already possible when the risk of frost has not yet been completely averted, because the plant pots can be brought into the house in the event of night frost.

SOS for pot basil

© Olga Romankova / sstock.adobe.com

If basil is bought in the plant pot in the supermarket and placed on the windowsill, plant friends will often experience a nasty surprise. The herb wilts, loses its leaves and is a sad sight.

The plants were grown in the greenhouse and mostly suffer irreparable damage from transport. This is especially the case in winter. Another problem is that the stalks in the plant pot are usually far too dense and inhibit each other in growth and deprive the nutrients.

The following measures can ensure the survival of pot basil:

1. Stuff the plant
2. Divide the plant into four equal parts
3. Remove old substrate
4. Provide a suitable substrate
5. Have four planters ready
6. Repot plants
7. Water plants
8. Fertilize plants
9. Cut shoot tips to promote branching

An overview of the most important planting tips

activityexplanation
Set location
  • bright
  • sunny
  • warm
  • protected
Select substrate
  • relaxed
  • permeable
  • nutritious
Make planting
  • Sowing outdoors from mid-May
  • Pre-culture from April in the planter
  • Note planting distance

Caring for basil

Water the basil properly

Pouring requires a bit of sensitivity. Basil doesn't like getting wet feet. Too much moisture around the roots can damage the plants. Fungal attack threatens. The fungus means that the plant can no longer absorb water. Soil withers withstands damp soil. This is what the gardener calls diarrhea. The plants give the impression of a lack of water, which means that more water is added. The basil shrinks and can no longer be saved.

A moderate but regular irrigation can be assumed. Before watering, it is advisable to feel with your finger whether the floor feels damp or has already dried out. Depending on the weather, the casting behavior must be adjusted. Plants need less water in damp weather, and accordingly more moisture in sunshine.

Tip: If basil is placed in a larger planter, the substrate dries out less quickly and less watering is required.

Shortly:

    • water regularly
    • Water only after the substrate has dried
    • Soil must not dry out completely
    • Avoid waterlogging
    • Leaves must not come into contact with moisture

Properly fertilize the basil

When fertilizing, it is important to observe the requirements of the spice plant. Basil is one of the top eaters and differs from chives, thyme, parsley and other conventional herbs. So ordinary herbal fertilizers are not suitable.

Tip: Basil has a high nutrient requirement and requires sufficient nitrogen, for example.

When fertilizing, a distinction is made between field or potted plants.

➛ outdoor plant:

  • Nutrient requirements somewhat lower than in the planter
  • regular fertilization necessary
  • administer compost or horn shavings between May and September
  • occasionally cattle manure or coffee grounds

➛ potted plant:

  • high nutrient requirements
  • organic liquid fertilizer once a week
  • Coffee grounds every four weeks

Although there is a high need for nutrients, fertilization should not be exaggerated. Blue grain, for example, is unsuitable. The fertilizer contains more potassium than nitrogen and there is a risk of over-fertilization.

Coffee grounds have proven themselves as natural fertilizers and are applied directly to the substrate. In this way, basil can be sustainably supplied with nitrogen. Coffee grounds also serve as a natural and environmentally friendly defense against snails in the herb bed.

Multiply basil

© yakovlevadaria / stock.adobe.com

The following options are available for the propagation of basil:

  • sowing
  • cuttings

Propagation by sowing - step by step

1. Prepare the seed container
2. Mix seed soil with a third of sand
3. Put up to ten seeds in a planter
4. Do not cover seeds with soil
5. Press the substrate lightly
6. Cover the planter with foil or glass
7. Set up the planter in a bright place
8. Avoid direct sunlight
9. Temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees
10. Moisten the seeds slightly

Germination takes place after a few days. The cover of the planter should be ventilated regularly so that no mold can develop inside. If the cotyledons touch the cover, it should be removed. If the plants have formed several cotyledons, they can be repotted into individual planters.

Propagation by cuttings - step by step

1. Cut the cutting
2. Remove the lower leaves
3. Leave one or two pairs of leaves on the cutting
4. Place the cutting in a water glass
5. Wait for root formation
6. Plant the cuttings

Shoots of about ten centimeters in length are suitable as cuttings. The lower pairs of leaves must be removed so that mold does not develop. After about two weeks, the cuttings in the water glass begin to form roots. If sufficient roots have developed, the cutting can be placed in a planter.

Tip: Use a larger planter and do not use more than ten cuttings.

Detect and combat pests and diseases in the basil

Basil is often affected by fungal diseases. Moisture and moisture create the ideal environment for fungal attack. If a fungal disease is recognized in good time, the infected plant parts can be removed. By adjusting the watering behavior, the herb can still be saved under certain circumstances. Fungicides cannot be used for control because the plant is intended for consumption.

In the field, basil is often infested with snails. The plants should be checked regularly. Snails can be collected when darkness falls or driven off by special, biological preparations.

An overview of other possible diseases:

  • damping-off
    ➛ Infestation with soil fungi triggers root dying.
  • alfalfa
    ➛ Disease is mostly transmitted by aphids. Mosaic-shaped yellowing forms on the leaves.
  • Leaf spot
    ➛ This is a fungal attack that is favored by cool and damp weather. As a result, the leaves turn yellowish to reddish brown.
  • Fusarium wilt
    ➛ With this disease, the leaves wither with intact roots. It cannot be controlled, so you have to dispose of affected plants.

Overwinter basil

In the annual basil described here, the life cycle ends with the formation of the seeds. Cultivation over the winter is not possible. Perennial species cannot be brought outdoors during the winter because they need warmth throughout. A year-round culture in closed rooms is possible. A bright, warm location should be selected. Irrigation requires a lot of sensitivity.

Cut and harvest basil

Basil should be cut regularly so that it does not flower. After flowering, the plants lose most of their aroma. The cut shoot tips are used for consumption.

A regular cut ensures a compact and dense growth. Only the upper shoots are shortened. New shoots develop from the lower pair of leaves.

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