Selecting Basil


Coco cat with flowering basil, October 2

I have grown many varieties of basil over the years, from the tall Genovese to lemon and purple basils. However I began to notice that the larger basils deteriorated at the slightest hint of cool weather and shorter days in September. If I still needed to make and freeze pesto, I had to search for enough good leaves. I always grew Greek bush basil too, but considered them a novelty, until I read a chef’s five star review of the bush basils over all others, because of their more intense spicy flavor. As well as the flavor, I had noticed that the bush basils seemed more rugged, easier to grow, and lasted later in the fall. The next year, I decided to grow only the bush basils and was able to put in a dozen because of their small size.

That year, I noticed some seedling variations that were quite amazing. One was much bigger than the others, more vigorous, and much later to go to seed. After watching it last and last into October before finally biting the dust, I realized it would be worth propagating (oops, too late!). The next year, 2015, I again planted a dozen or so bush basils from the same seed packet (I save them in the freezer). They were called “Basil, Greek Yevani” organic seed from Botanical Interests, hoping more such variations would turn up. Luckily, there were again a couple of great ones. This time, I rooted 5 cuttings in water in September, to winter over in the house.

But keeping the warmth loving basils alive all winter in our cool Michigan house seemed doubtful. I figured my only chance was to use my seed starting mat which maintains about an 86 degree temperature. I also put them near a south facing window, as if south meant anything in the dead of winter. But I did everything I could think of. I also used some additional light from a bulb in a desk lamp called Sun Blaster 26 watt 6400 K  I found on Amazon. Toward spring, I lost 2, but 3 survived. I planted them out in late May and they took off in a hurry forming huge, not so diminutive, bush basil plants. I planted tomatoes on their south side, which soon grew to 6 feet, shading them from August onward. That didn’t seem to faze them. We  love the pesto they make. My husband is not normally a pesto fan, but raved about this. I did use pine nuts (Trader Joe’s), and I like the recipe called “I Am Graceful Hemp Seed Pesto” from my tried and true “I Am Grateful” book by Terces Engelhart with Orchid from Cafe Gratitude.


Selected basils on October 2


I am now back to taking cuttings from these and rooting them in water for next summer. I’ll use the same system again, but may add my new and improved foliar feed with sea-90, BioAg’s Ful-Power (fulvic acid), General Organic’s BioWeed and BioMarine. Just to make sure the science (we know about) is there, I’ll also now use BioAg’s VAM to inoculate the roots with mycorrhizae. I’m hoping all five make it, (but do I really need 5?).


‘Wonderful’ selected basil on left with unselected basil ‘Slim Pickins’ on right

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