The strong, clove-like
flavour of basil is an essential feature of many
Italian recipes and its traditional partner is
the tomato – spaghetti sauce, pizzas, tomato
sauce and tomato salad all call for basil.
This tender annual cannot stand frost. Sow under
glass in a peat pot in March or April and plant
out in early June in a well-drained, sunny spot.
Space plants about 1ft (30cm) apart and pinch
out the growing tips regularly to produce a bushy
plant with pale green, aromatic foliage. During
the summer gather leaves as required – preserve
by the ice-cube method and not by drying which
destroys much of the flavour. The best way to
have basil in winter is to lift plants and pot
up in September, placing the pots on the kitchen
windowsill. There is a low-growing species (bush
basil) which can grow indoors as a house plant.
Apart from its use with tomato dishes, basil is
recommended for flavouring soups, salads, minced
beef and sausages. Remember to use it sparingly.