Basil, Ocimum basilicum
Grow basil indoors from January to April, in a propagator or heated greenhouse. Use 9cm pots or multi-cell trays, as basil has a long tap root and doesn't transplant well. Alternatively, sow directly into the soil outside from May. Basil thrives in warm, sunny conditions and rich, well-drained soil. Water the plants before noon so the soil dries out quickly, and pinch out the tips to encourage bushy growth and stop flowers developing.
Leaves are ready to harvest after around six weeks. They're best picked young and torn, rather than cut. Varieties to try include ‘Genovese’, a typical green basil, ‘Purple Ruffles’, which has aniseed and cinnamon flavours and grows well in semi-shade, and ‘Cinnamon’, which has a warm, spicy flavour and is perfect in fruit salads and stir-fries. Add leaves to summer salads, pasta dishes and home-made pestos.