Monday, March 23, 2009

Italian Large Leaf Basil (Ocimum basilicum Large Leaf Italian)

Italian large leaf fragrant basil grows 18" to 24" high and 12" - 15" wide. Dark green, shiny leaves grow up to 3" long on a tall, erect plant that is slow to bolt. This basil is regarded as the essential variety for true Neapolitan cuisine, especially pesto.

How to grow
It is not hard to grow from seed, which germinates readily at temperatures between 75-85 degrees, usually within 2 weeks. Contrary to most cultivation information on basil, it does not mind slightly acid soil or partial shade. As a matter of fact, it will do best in an area protected from the wind and scorching midday sun. It likes rich, well-drained soil and will grow best in soil enhanced with well-composted manure. It hates cold and should be planted out only when night temperatures reach 50 to 55 degrees. If you practice companion planting, plant basil near tomatoes and peppers to enhance their growth. Pinch out growing tips to encourage bushier plants and to delay flowering.

Pick the extra large leaves and use fresh or dried in tomato dishes, pasta sauces, vegetables and soups. Fresh basil makes a nice tea, an excellent vinegar, and tastes great fresh with fish, poultry, rice, mild vegetables, eggplant and many others. You can also use basil in the garden as a companion plant to repel aphids, mites, and tomato hornworms.

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