A half hardy culinary herb with clove-like flavour that is often used for flavouring soups, omelettes, fish, minced beef dishes,plus pizzas and pastas.

It originates from India, and can be found growing wild in Mediterranean areas.

Although it will grow in British soil,better results can be had from pot grown specimens grown in a cool greenhouse or on the kitchen windowsill.

Sweet Basil on
Window sill

There are many varieties of basil, each with a slightly different flavour, for example;

Sweet basil - Ocimum basilcum is the most popular variety grown in the UK where it grows to a height of 750mm (30")

Purple basil - Ocimum basilcum purpurea is similar to sweet basil.

Lemon basil - Ocimum citriodorum has a mild lemon flavour and is a great accompaniment to fish, and grows to a height of 300mm (12")

Cinnamon basil - Ocimum basilcum originates from Mexico, and has a mild flavour of cinnamon, and grows to a height of 450mm (18")


Harvesting is generally from late July till September.

The flower/leaf can be used fresh, dried or frozen for later use.

When the plants are roughly 100mm (4") tall pinch or cut the leaves off as required.

Avoid chopping off whole this will weaken the plant and hamper growth.


Week 13:

Sow seeds in pots/trays of moist seed compost and germinate at a temperature of 13°C (55°F).

Germination should take up to a week.

Week 15>:

When the seedlings have produced five true leaves prick them out into 75mm (3") pots of potting compost and grow them on at a slightly lower temperature.

Alternatively, prick out two or three seedlings into a 100mm (4") pot to be grown on indoors.

Week 18:

Alternatively, sow in the open and thin out to 40-50mm (15”-18”) apart when the true leaves appear.

Week 18:

Place seedlings in coldframe to harden off.

Week 21:

Plant out 50 -100mm (2”-4”) apart in well-drained fertile soil in a sheltered sunny site.

circa Week 30:

Small insignificant scented flowers will appear, these should be pinched out to promote foliage.

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