Green and purple basil

Fact file: basil

Find out more about tasty and versatile basil, in our fact file.

Basil adds a distinctly Mediterranean flavour to dishes, and growing it couldn’t be simpler.


Find out all you need to know about growing basil in our basil Grow Guide.

When growing basil, one of the most important things to remember is to water – if the soil becomes too dry, they’ll quickly wilt. Don’t let the plants sit in water, though, as this can cause the roots to rot.

More advice on growing herbs:

Find out more about tasty basil, including how to grow it and cultivars to try, below.

In Elizabethan times, sweet basil was dried and used as a snuff to treat headaches and colds.

Did you know…

In Elizabethan times, sweet basil was dried and used as a snuff to treat headaches and colds. It is also seen as a sacred plant – some Greek Orthodox churches use Greek basil to prepare their holy water and at Hindu weddings, the parents of the bride traditionally present the groom with a basil leaf.


Pinching out a basil shoot
Pinching out a basil shoot

Adding basil leaves to food will aid digestion. It also acts as a mild expectorant (to make coughing easier).


A fresh bunch of basil
A fresh bunch of basil

Eat leaves raw and as fresh as possible. Here are our tips on how to pick herbs, to ensure they don’t run to seed and cut short your harvests.


A row of young basil plants
A row of young basil plants

Difficult to dry or freeze well. But you can steep the leaves in oil for a month, then strain, to make a richly-flavoured oil.

How to grow

Purple basil seedlings
Purple basil seedlings

Sow basil seeds into small pots and put somewhere warm (around 20°C) and bright. Water sparingly until germination, then water only when needed and in the mornings to avoid damping off and, later, botrytis. Gradually pot on and harden off seedlings. Pinch out tips to encourage bushy plants. Start off indoors, on a kitchen windowsill. Keep indoors or it can be planted outside in warmer locations, in the ground or a pot, in a sunny sheltered spot, from June to August. Protect from slugs.

Our choices

Basil 'Crimson King'
Basil ‘Crimson King’

Basil ‘Crimson King’: purple, highly aromatic leaves. Cinnamon basil: purplish leaves and a cinnamon scent, good for stir-fries. Greek basil: tiny leaves are ideal for growing in a pot. Thai basil: pungent aniseed flavour, perfect for Oriental dishes. Basil ‘Mrs Burns’ Lemon’: the large leaves have a strong lemon flavour.

Create a herb container

Keep all your herbs in one place, so you can harvest lots of different herbs in one go. One of the simplest ways to do this is to plant a range of herbs in one generously sized container – here’s how create a herb container display.