Now, before I reveal the secret to pruning basil let me be right up front with you – this is not hard, but you don’t have to let friends and neighbors know that! Just stand back smugly and let them admire you beautiful basil.
Before we get started, I want to let you know that I happen to think basil is one of the most beautiful plants you can grow. Just check out these photos of some of my basil:
So, what is the secret?
Well, here it is, the first pruning is the most important for creating a bushy, multi-branched plant. When the young basil has developed three sets of leaves, and is over 6 inches tall, cut the main stem right above the second set of leaves. This will make the plant much more stocky and will produce more leaves and a better, more intense flavor.
Remove any blossoms that appear by pinching them off. Prune your basil plant every two to three weeks throughout the summer. The best way to prune it is to use it in your cooking! That’s all there is to it! Easy peasy!
Tip: I find a sharp pair of scissors works well for pruning my basil.
Plant propagation is the process of creating new plants from a variety of sources: seeds, cuttings, bulbs and other plant parts. In the case of basil, you can create new plants right from the pruned stems, it is free and easy! It takes just five simple steps.
You will need:
- Vessel to hold water (I like using a mason jar or small vase)
- Basil cuttings
- Liquid Plant Fertilizer (optional, but recommended)
Step 2. Prep your basil cuttings for propagation by stripping off the bottom set of leaves. The stem that sits in water should be free of leaves so that bacteria does not form during the rooting process. The leaves you removed should be used for cooking or drying.
Replace with fresh water every 3 days (no more fertilizer). Keep the stems in the water until they have about an inch of root growth.
Some stems will develop roots faster than others.
Those that take more time to develop roots can be left in water for an additional 3 days.
If roots don’t develop after this point, discard the stems.
Step 5. Enjoy your best basil harvest ever!
Although more than 60 varieties of basil have been identified, they all fall into three main types: sweet, purple, and bush. Each offers a subtle difference in taste; varieties such as lemon, anise, and cinnamon basil give you an idea of how one might modify and enhance a recipe. It only takes a few leaves to transform a simple dish - Yes, even a sandwich. (This was a delicious lunch - basil, tomato, mozzarella, onion and horseradish!!)
Plus, basil is considered one of the healthiest herbs. It's best when fresh, exuding a sweet, earthy aroma that indicates not only the promise of pleasantly pungent flavor, but an impressive list of nutrients. Vitamin K, essential for blood clotting, is one of them. Just two tablespoons of basil provides 29 percent of the daily recommended value.
Basil also provides vitamin A, which contains beta-carotenes, powerful antioxidants that protect the cells lining a number of body structures, including the blood vessels, from free radical damage. This helps prevent cholesterol in blood from oxidizing, helping to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke.
Other vitamins and minerals in basil include iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium. Not surprisingly, basil also has antibacterial properties and contains DNA-protecting flavonoids. It's the flavonoids and volatile oils in basil that give it the most health benefits, the former protecting on the cellular level, with antibacterial properties related to its volatile oils. Among these are estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene, all capable of restricting the growth of numerous harmful bacteria, including listeria, staphylococcus, E. coli, yersinia enterocolitica, and pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Some antibiotic medications that have been found to be resistant to some of these strains have been inhibited by basil extracts. One of those oils - eugenol - can block the activity of the harmful enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX). This same effect puts basil in the "anti-inflammatory" category because it provides relief from related problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
When scientists tested basil oil in diluted concentrations against several common but serious multidrug-resistant bacteria, including some of those listed above, it strongly reduced the negative effect of the bacteria. Research data noted the encouraging results of the tests, especially in light of the high level of resistance of the bacteria.
Another study debated the traditional use of basil to treat several respiratory diseases and the symptoms of tuberculosis, exploring the possible use of basil against actual tuberculosis symptoms. Test results were affirmative, with the conclusion that basil could be used to formulate new and natural anti-tuberculosis treatments.
I suppose my favorite reason to grown and use basil is pretty simple – it is just darn good!
One impressive study showed that washing produce in a solution of basil or thyme essential oil in just a 1% concentration diminished the number of infectious Shigella bacteria, which can produce intestine-damaging diarrhea. This result proves that ingesting basil and thyme in as many ways as possible, especially fresh in salads and their dressings, helps ensure the safety of the fresh produce you bring to your table.
The ancient Greek word "basilikohn," meaning royal, is the derivative of what we now call basil. It reflected an attitude of nobility and a desire to extend hospitality, friendship, and honor whenever it was served.
But again, I love it because it just plain tastes great!