Basil is one of the most cultivated aromatic plants in Italy; in fact it is a small herbaceous plant, originally from Asia, which came to Europe centuries ago, and has been cultivated both in Europe and in Asia for a very long time. In fact, the basil we are used to eating and seeing in the garden is a hybrid plant, whose botanical name is Ocymum basilicum "Genoese", testifying to the city where the use of basil is most widespread. It is a perennial plant, generally cultivated as an annual, as it fears the cold, and temperatures below 10 ° C cause its rapid deterioration. Basil, as we know it, is only one of the various varieties widespread in cultivation; in fact, in Italian cuisine, the so-called sweet, broad-leaved basil with a delicate aroma is particularly appreciated; but it is not so everywhere, in Asia for example, where basil is a fundamental ingredient of many regional cuisines, they are appreciated more variety with licorice, lemon or more spicy aroma; in France and Greece the so-called ball basil is preferred: a variety of small leaf basil, Ocimum basilicum, var. minimum. But there are many varieties of basil, and also the species spread all over the globe; there is purple or purple leaf basil, with a pungent aroma, and also basil with a high content of limonene in the leaves, which gives them an intense lemon scent.
All the plants are however similar, with lanceolate leaves, smooth, with clearly visible veins, of a beautiful intense green color; the thin stems are erect and not branched, and at the apex, towards the end of the summer, a small spike of purple flowers is produced, followed by the woody fruits, capsules containing the small black seeds.
How to grow basil
The cultivation of basil is very simple and gives great satisfaction. This is why almost all cooking enthusiasts try it. In Italy it is difficult for a jar of this precious aromatic plant to be missing in the family, even if only grown on a windowsill.
Basil is cultivated with great ease, both in open ground and in pots; it is easy to find small basil plants, even simply at the supermarket; if, however, we want to obtain our basil crop, we can obtain many plants, simply by sowing it, directly at home. Basil is a plant of Asian origin, which needs a warm climate, but without excess drought or heat; therefore, to plant it, a semi-shaded plot is chosen, where it can enjoy a few hours of sunshine, but not in the hottest hours of the day. Basil plants that are excessively exposed to sunlight tend to take on a dull color, with yellowish veins, and the leaves tend to lose consistency and to wilt quickly. We prefer increasingly shady locations, the more we find ourselves in an area characterized by torrid summer weather. Clearly, however, we choose an area that is not dark, but very bright and well ventilated.
The watering must be regular, also because the basil plants collapse quickly if left without water. Let's water regularly, but avoiding leaving the soil moist for a long time, and watering only when the soil is dry.
Basil sprouts only when the weather is already spring, with minimum temperatures above 15-20 ° C, so if we want an early harvest of basil leaves we will have to sow it in a warm bed, already in February or March, in order to have seedlings already high at the arrival of the first tomatoes of April-May. Open field sowing starts from April.
Basil plants develop rapidly, and once the climate is warm and the place is bright, they tend to have a continuous cycle of production of new shoots; for this reason it often happens to be able to grow basil at home, in small pots, for all the winter months.