Basil is a fragrant, well-loved herb that has many culinary uses. If you don’t have an outdoor garden, you’ll want to know how to grow basil indoors.
We’ll show you a simple way to grow basil indoors, and get it to thrive. This article has harvesting tips and recipes as well.
What Is Basil?
Also known as the St Joseph’s Wort, Basil is a favored culinary herb that belongs to the mint family. This plant is native to Africa and Southeast Asia. Chefs worldwide use their tender leaves in their dishes, particularly spicy ones.
The leaves taste somewhat like star anise. This plant has many hybrids. So how do we grow basil indoors, in our home or balcony? It’s easier than it may seem!
How to Grow Basil Indoors: A 3-Stepped Guide
1. Planting the Seeds
Make a trip to your herbalist or nursery to select basil seeds for planting. Should you want to buy them online, find out which websites have the best ones.
Use the right soil:
First of all, plant the seeds in coarse, well-draining soil. Basil grows well in nutrient-rich soil that drains water quickly. Fill a container with this soil. Choose one which has enough drainage. It can consist of clay, stone or plastic. Spray the earth with a little moisture before filling the container up with it.
Ensure proper drainage
Look for drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. These will ensure drainage and a healthy plant. Place a tray underneath to prevent water from coming out of the holes.
Scatter and Cover the Seeds:
Scatter about 5 – 7 seeds into the soil. Should you be using plastic trays, aim to get three seeds in each. Remember to plant use more than one seed in case there are dormant ones. They should be about 2.5 cm from each other. Sprinkle a layer of dry earth to cover the seeds.
This layer needn’t be thick; just a quarter of an inch is enough to protect the seeds and prompt them to grow. Avoid packing down the soil if you want your basil plant to grow healthy.
Add additional moisture and sun your plant:
Spray some water onto the earth to add a layer of moisture. Water, in particular, the new layer. Use a spray bottle, or if you don’t have one, dip your hands in a cup of water and sprinkle it over the soil with your fingers. Place a plastic sheet over the container to lock in the dampness.
Place the pot in a sunny area. Since you’re going to grow your basil indoors, the area where you place the seeds needs to be sunny. Basil thrives under at least six hours of sunlight. The best place to put it is near a well-lit window. Be careful not to put it near the glass as the plant may become either too warm or cold.
Watch the seeds germinate:
The seeds should start to sprout after about five to ten days. Their growth rate will depend on the amount of sunlight they receive, and the temperature of the soil. Continue to keep them moist and warm.
2. Caring for the Basil Plant
a. Watering the plant:
First of all, water the basil plant from its base twice weekly to keep it hydrated. Don’t pour water directly onto the leaves or stem; pour it into the soil line instead. You avoid dripping, wet leaves this way. Test the dampness of the soil. Stick your fingers about an inch into it to gauge its moisture. Water the plant if it feels dry.
b. Use a light source and simulate a natural habitat:
If you’ve no access to sunlight, place the plant under an artificially light source to give it additional care. Keep it about 2 inches away from the plant for 10 to 12 hours. High-intensity light should be 2-4 m away from the plant. Water your plant if it wilts.
Let the water soak through the soil before adding more. Move the plant out of the sunlight for a few hours while it recharges. Since your basil is going to grow indoors, you need to create a natural setting. Turn a fan on to simulate an outdoor breeze. It should be at the lowest setting and pointed at the plant for at least two hours daily.
c. Check its pH Levels:
Monitor the pH levels of the plant using organic fertilizer. Mix it into the soil and test it using pH strips. An ideal level is 6. Be aware that organic fertilizer poses a risk, as basil is for culinary purposes.
d. Thinning the Plant and PInching the Seedlings:
You may thin your plantwhen it has two or three pairs of leaves. Keep the plants about 6 to 12 inches apart to ensure room for growth. You can remove excess roots. Then, dig the soil away from the base of the plant using a wooden popsicle stick.
Slide a tongue depressor under the developing roots or wiggle the seedling out of the earth with your fingers. Replant the seedlings in a separate pot. Alternatively, you may keep the seedling about 6 to 12 inches away from its parent if you wish to grow them in the same pot.
Pinch off the tops of the seedlings when they reach six inches. You may prune it, in the same way, when it has three sets of leaves.
3. Gathering the Leaves
First of all, crop the basil leaves before the plant flowers. You’ll get the biggest leaves this way. As you do, pinch the flowers to redirect the energy growing back to the growing leaves.
Pick the leaves off when you only need small numbers of them. Either use your fingers or a pair of sharp scissors to pinch off the leaves. Picking the leaves doesn’t harm the plant. Try not to remove more than a third of them.
Cut at the point where two large leaves meet. Doing this ensures a stems worth of basil leaves and allows new growth to continue.
7 Recipes You Can Make With Your Home-Grown Basil
As soon as you’ve grown your own basil at home, you can enjoy some yummy recipes. Basil leaves complete any dish. It can be used for salads, pasta, meat, homemade pizza – this list is endless!
Here are four recipes with fresh basil that will keep your family members coming to your dinner table.
1. Basil, Mozzarella, and Tomato Salad
You will need:
For the Basil Sauce:
- A cup of fresh basil leaves, loosely packed.
- One-third cup of vegetable broth.
- A quarter cup of balsamic vinegar.
- A teaspoon of sea salt.
For the Salad:
- 12 thick slices of yellow tomato.
- 12 thick slices of red tomato.
- 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese.
- A teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
- Half a cup of thinly sliced fresh basil leaves.
To prepare the sauce, cook a cup of basil leaves in boiling water for 15 seconds, then drain them. Dunk the leaves into iced water, then remove them and pat them dry. Combine the broth and the leaves in a blender and process them until you get a smooth mixture. Sieve it into a bowl.
To prepare the salad, arrange the red and yellow tomatoes on a plate. Drizzle the broth on top. Sprinkle it with cheese and pepper. Serve the salad at once.
2. Pasta and Lemon Basil Shrimp:
You will need:
- 3 quarts of water.
- 8 ounces of uncooked spaghetti.
- A pound of peeled, deveined shrimp.
- 1/4 cup of chopped, fresh basil.
- Three tablespoons capers, drained.
- Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
- Two tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- 2 cups of baby spinach.
Boil the water in a saucepan. Add the pasta and cook it for about eight minutes. Cook the shrimp in a pan and make sure the pasta is al dente. Put everything in a large bowl and stir in the basil.
Place half a cup of spinach on four plates and top each serving with pasta mixture.
3. Chicken and Basil Stir Fry:
You will need:
- A pound of boned chicken breast halves, skinned.
- A tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
- A tablespoon of minced garlic.
- A quarter tablespoon of hot chili flakes.
- 2/3 cup chicken broth.
- A tablespoon Asian Fish Sauce.
- Two tablespoons of corn starch.
Rinse the chicken breasts and pat them dry. Slice them crosswise into 1/8 inch strips that are about 2 to 3 inches long. Put a non-stick frying pan over high heat, and add oil when it’s hot. Toss in the ginger, garlic, chili flakes, and finally, the chicken.
Stir until the chicken is no longer pink. Mix the broth and fish sauce in a small bowl, and add the cornstarch. Stir the mixture until its smooth. Add the basil leaves and stir until they have barely wilted. Add a pinch of salt to taste.
4. Basil Sauce and Salmon:
You will need:
- Four 6-Oz salmon fillets.
- Olive oil.
- Freshly ground black pepper.
- A cup of fresh basil.
- A garlic clove.
- Two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice.
- A quarter teaspoon of salt.
Layer the olive oil on the salmon fillets, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Set them aside for ten minutes to let them absorb the flavor. Combine the olive oil, basil and other ingredients in a blender. Process them, then set them aside.
Place a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the salmon for four to five minutes or until done. Heat the reserved basil sauce and pour it over the salmon.
In all, knowing how to grow basil indoors will give you a useful herb that will complete many dishes. Try these recipes today!