Edible garden: Basil

How to grow it

A perfect companion to tomatoes, basil is a fragrant, versatile plant. The scent of basil helps disguise tomatoes from pest insects such as whitefly. Basil enjoys the same conditions as tomatoes - full sun, warm soil and good drainage.

There are numerous varieties of basil, each with different flavours, leaf shapes and sizes, in various shades of green to rich purple.

Basil "lettuce leaf" and basil "Fino Verde" are excellent for making pesto. The anise-like fragrance of Thai basil is used in Thai dishes. Basil "Spicy Globe" and "Greek Mini" have small leaves and a compact form which are ideal for growing in terracotta pots. For most varieties of basil, pluck out the top growth regularly to encourage bushy, shapely growth.

In the kitchen

Fan slices of fresh mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, slices or wedges of tomato (one of the larger growing varieties), then drizzle over balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a summer-fresh pre-dinner starter.

- NZ Herald

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