Sweet basil brings a taste of the Mediterranean to your food and is the perfect partner for all tomato dishes, spaghetti sauces and pizzas.
Basil is half hardy and treated as a tender annual, growing plants from seeds sown throughout the year. It can be grown outdoors during the summer, but for a continual supply for the rest of the year must be grown indoors. It makes a useful and ornamental addition to the kitchen windowsill. If you are wanting to grow your own basil, read our guide here.
Outdoors, basil needs a warm, sunny position and very well-drained soil.
Basil is usually best grown in a pot - either in a warm, sunny position on the patio or on a windowsill that doesn't get too hot in summer.
Sweet Genovese is the usual variety, although there are many varieties of basil you can grow with each giving a slightly different flavour due to the subtle variances in essential oils.
Why not try some of these basil varieties and taste the difference for yourself...
It is one of the most well-known herbs around the world and is a key ingredient in certain Italian dishes, pesto and some fresh salads which has led to it being well used across the UK and many other countries.
Basil seeds can be sown directly in the soil outside during summer. But it is usually better to sow a few seeds in small pots of compost indoors with gentle warmth. Sow every 6-8 weeks to have a constant supply of fresh leaves throughout the year.
Young plants are usually available from garden centres in summer. Plant these out or pot them up into slightly larger pots.
If sowing outdoors, thin out seedlings or plant out young plants to 30-45cm (12-18in) apart, as they need plenty of room to produce strong, leafy plants.
Keep the soil or compost moist, but take care not to overwater - especially in autumn and winter - as too much water can lead to rotting.
Give plants a light liquid feed of a general feed every couple of weeks during summer. This will help ensure plants go on producing a constant supply of leaves. Don't use high potash feeds, as these will encourage premature flowering.
Pinch out the tips of young plants to make them bushier and help prevent flowering; plants start to lose their flavour once flowering begins.
You can use the pinched out tips, and keep harvesting leaves regularly, without completely stripping the plant, to keep it producing leaves over several weeks.