The mighty green leaves of this warm-weather herb burst with flavor and add vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron into your diet. Just brushing against a basil plant to release its fragrance can make you feel like you’re walking through a Tuscan garden.
Our Favorite Types of Basil to Grow
- sweet basil
- purple basil
- lemon basil
- Thai basil
Basil Growing Tips
Follow these tips to keep your basil plants happy and healthy.
When to Grow Basil in Central Texas
Basil, a member of the mint family, grows really well in warm, moist summer soil, but you can generally keep your herb happy year round here in Austin, Texas, with some cold weather precautions like covering your herb before cold snaps to help it survive frost.
If you’re buying a basil plant, you can plant it outside anytime between late March and September to enjoy it while our weather is warmest. If you’re starting basil from seed, you can direct sow seeds in the garden space after mid-March (our last frost date) or start seeds indoors in February to set out later.
Where to Grow Basil
Your raised garden bed is the perfect place to give basil the well-draining soil it prefers. Basil thrives when planted near tomato plants (just as it tastes extra good paired with tomato in a Caprese salad).
Basil can also be grown in containers at least 6 inches deep, but make sure to water more frequently since the soil will dry out faster. Potted-up basil is super easy to bring indoors during cold weather.
Did you know you can even grow basil in a south-facing windowsill?
How to Prune Basil
Pinch off the top sets of leaves as soon as your plant reaches six inches in height to prevent early blooming. (You don’t want your plant to go to seed.)
Use your fingers to pinch off flowers before they bloom.
Prune your basil leaves regularly to encourage bushier growth. Fortunately, pruning herbs really just means harvesting a lot!
How to Harvest Basil
When you’re harvesting from your basil plant, avoid pulling off the biggest leaves (the ones on the bottom branches); instead, focus on the top of the plant with the goal of creating two new branches from one.
Look for two small leaves growing exactly opposite from each other. Use clean scissors or shears (or your fingernails) to cut just above this leaf set.
How to Store Basil
Basil leaves can be washed, dried, and kept fresh in the fridge for a couple of days before they start turning brown. You can also dry or freeze your leaves. After a really big harvest, I like to make pesto, which brings us to…
Easy Basil Pesto Recipe
I add this pesto to pasta and bread and even use it as the sauce for homemade pizzas. Almonds are a cheaper alternative to the classic ingredient pine nuts.
2 cups fresh basil leaves (can supplement with spinach leaves if you’re short on fresh herbs)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (alternative: Pecorino cheese)
¼ cup crushed almonds (option: lightly toast almonds before crushing)
¼ cup olive oil; add more as needed
2 cloves of peeled garlic
Dash of salt and pepper
- Optional: splash of lemon juice
1. Combine basil, cheese, almonds, olive oil, and garlic. While you can use a blender or a food processor, you’ll get better flavor using a good ol’ mortar and pestle. Pesto, after all, means pounded in Italian.
2. Add in more olive oil as needed to make pesto thick and smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice or more cheese—whatever your taste buds fancy!
3. If you want to make a higher yield or have a more subtle flavor, you can supplement this recipe with spinach leaves or Swiss chard leaves.
4. Refrigerate any leftovers.