Here is how you can grow ready-to-chop-and-eat basil in six weeks

Sep 22, 2013, 07:40 IST | A Correspondent

You love the pesto in your pasta and the Caprese salad, don't you? Now only if the basil leaves were garden fresh! Actually all you need is a few weeks of patience

1. Choose well: Choose the kind of basil you want to grow (cinnamon basil, lemon basil, Thai basil, purple basil, etc). The last mentioned is used more as a decoration while the others are used in food. The Thai basil is our favourite.

Water the saplings twice daily till they become at least three to four inches tall

2. Getting ready: Prepare seed containers: fill a container with soil with a handful of natural fertiliser mixed in. Mix well and press the mixture to ensure there are no air pockets. Add a little water, enough to moisten the soil.

3. Birth of a seed: Plant not more than two or three seeds per container/flower pot. Ideally cover the containers with a transparent plastic wrap and keep in mild sunlight, so that it stays damp. Open and sprinkle water every morning for a week or so.

The pesto can be kept in an air tight jar for use later

4. Sprout out: After a few days, the first sprouts will emerge. Remove and throw away plastic sheets at this stage. Remember to sprinkle water twice daily till the plants are about three to four inches tall.

5. Transfer of power: Once you see two sets of leaves on a plant, transfer them to either a larger pot or if you do have a kitchen garden, then transfer it to the garden. Make sure you plant them at least six inches apart.

6. Keep them watered: Water the plants only in the morning. Remember basil can’t tolerate too much water, so make sure they are not subject to standing water at any stage.

7. Pinch a little: When you notice the flower buds, pinch or use your nails to remove the flower and the set of leaves just below the flowers. Basil leaves retain their taste only if the flower is removed periodically.

8. Pick up the leaves: Use a sharp knife or scissors to chop off the stem till the top two set of leaves from time to time. Watch out for a tiny set of leaves growing at the base of every larger leaf. Do not damage them, as these leaves will help the plant grow further in the days to come.

9. Safe as a puree: Once you have made a pesto with the basil or mixed it in a Caprese salad, ensure you put the excess basil leaves in a paper towel, put it in an airtight container and then keep it in the fridge. If you think you are likely to use it again only after a week or so, it’s better if you puree it.

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