What lemon basil looks like, composition and properties. Seed selection, planting, cultivation and care of a spicy plant. Ways to use it in cooking.
Lemon basil is an annual plant of the Lamiaceae family, reaching 30-40 cm in height and having the shape of a moderately lush bush. Its small, rounded leaves with small teeth at the edges and sharp tips often become a seasoning for a wide range of dishes - from deli meats to desserts, all thanks to its unusual lemon flavor and recognizable flavor, which most find very attractive.
Description and properties of lemon basil
In the photo, lemon basil
The fresh, cool aroma with lemon, lemon balm and notes of camphor, combined with a pleasant taste, have made lemon basil an invariable favorite of culinary specialists. Its popularity is high, but it is difficult to call a plant unpretentious in care. To settle in your kitchen one or two pots with low bushes, you will need to make an effort.
Unlike its ancestor, an ordinary basilica, which arrived in Europe along with the marching carts of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC and received the proud name "Basileus" from the Greeks, that is, "Tsar", lemon basil is still very young. It owes its birth to a group of Russian breeders led by Elena Mikhailovna Khomyakova, and its almost instantly spread fame - not only to the unexpected and bright lemon aroma of basil, but also to the successful combination of food and taste.
The initial material for breeding the hybrid was American and fragrant basil (aka ordinary, aka camphor), but the new variety differs significantly from them both in appearance and in basic characteristics and is a unique plant.
The nutritional value of the spice plant is predictably low - about 27 kcal per 100 g.
Lemon basil leaves contain:
- Vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B9, C, E, K, PP;
- Minerals iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, copper, sodium, selenium, phosphorus;
- Unsaturated fatty acids;
- Fats, carbohydrates and proteins;
- Alimentary fiber;
- Essential oils;
In the photo, tea with lemon basil
The rich chemical composition has become the reason that not only culinary experts, who have begun to widely use it in the preparation of various dishes, but also cosmetologists, perfumers and even fans of traditional medicine, became interested in the properties of lemon basil.
Cosmetologists make masks on the basis of a spicy plant with a soothing, bactericidal and rejuvenating effect; they use it in the fight against acne, blackheads and oily sheen.
Perfumers use the extract of the aromatic plant to create aromatic compositions: the light, sparkling, pure spirit of lemon basil is found with equal frequency in both men's and women's perfumes.
Fans of the "green first aid kit" believe in the ability of basil to strengthen the cardiovascular system, stimulate the gastrointestinal tract, have a beneficial effect on the state of metabolism, relieve spasms, lower blood cholesterol, have a tonic effect, and relieve depression. True, in fairness it is worth noting that the beneficial properties of lemon basil in terms of medicine have not yet been scientifically confirmed, so it is wiser to keep the spice in the kitchen, and not in the medicine cabinet.
But do not forget that lemon basil, like any plant, has its own contraindications. So, people with hypertension, ischemia, blood clotting problems and diabetes mellitus need to be more careful with it, and the essential oils contained in the plant can cause an allergic reaction.
Features of growing lemon basil
Among gardeners, the plant is considered a spice, not just capricious, but "with character." In order for lemon basil to regularly delight you with good shoots and a rich harvest, it is worth creating the most comfortable conditions for the green handsome man.
Before you buy lemon basil seeds, you should decide where you want to plant the plant: on your windowsill or in the country, in open ground.
In the first case, the following varieties will be an excellent choice:
- "Lemon Miracle" … An early ripe type of basil that grows up to 20-25 cm in height and yields a harvest 45-53 days after planting.
- "Lemon flavor" … Also, the variety is early maturing, ripening on average within 2 months. The adult plant is a dense bush with juicy green leaves and rises 40 cm above the ground. Note that there is only one variety of lemon basil that has a purple leaf color - "Purple Lemon Scent". Don't confuse it with the green namesake!
- "Lemon" … Early-ripening vegetable basil with a ripening period of 45 days.
- "Basil Badery" … Vegetable, mid-season, reaching a height of 81 cm. 71 days pass from germination to ripening.
The listed varieties do not tolerate a drop in temperature, so they grow best at home, on warm windowsills. Even a draft can damage them, therefore, until reliable heat is established, fragrant wards are undesirable to take out to the balcony or open the vents right above their green tops.
Important! If you want to get the most out of a scented plant, look at the microgreens of lemon basil. It is distinguished by its delightful tenderness, delicate taste and an incredible amount of vitamins and minerals!
For planting in the ground, it is worth choosing the following varieties:
- "Limoncello" … Mid-season species with oblong ovoid leaves and ripening period 40-42 days after germination.
- "Lemon wedges" … Mid-season basil, which takes up to 51 days to grow and mature. It features a wavy edge of the leaves and a slightly bubbly surface due to pronounced veins.
As for the choice of the seeds themselves, today India is traditionally considered the best supplier of basil, from which the spicy "Basileus" once spread throughout the world. The climate of this country suits the thermophilic plant in the best way, so the chance of getting a good product in this case is much higher. But if you buy lemon basil seeds in cold regions, they will not differ in germination.
To ensure the germination of basil, convinced perfectionists, before preparing the seeds for planting, sprinkle them on a sheet of white paper or a piece of cloth and carefully sort them out, rejecting damaged, whitish or covered with an incomprehensible bloom microscopic balls. The smoother and cleaner the seed, the better the crop will come from it.
Some people prefer to heat lemon basil seeds in a glass of hot water with a temperature of 50-60 ° C in 5-7 doses in order to give a signal to the embryo embedded in them: spring has come, it's time to sprout! But if you have not previously been engaged in warming up, it is better to abandon this undertaking, since excessive heat will only harm the seed. As a last resort, on a sunny day, lay the fabric with black "grains of sand" on the windowsill and leave for a couple of hours.
To prevent fungal diseases and increase germination, seeds are placed in a shallow container (saucer or plastic disposable plate) for 20-30 minutes, poured with a weak solution of potassium permanganate and covered with a clean, non-synthetic cloth.
After the preparatory measures, you can proceed to planting. This usually occurs in late winter - early spring, adjusted for the climatic conditions of the region. It depends on them, the number of sunny days and possible cold snaps, how and when to plant lemon basil. So focus on February-March, but do not forget to check the weather.
Note! When stored properly, basil seeds retain their sowing qualities for 3-4 years.
Planting lemon basil
In the photo, the process of planting lemon basil in open ground
The easiest way to grow lemon basil is to plant it in potted plants and boxes. To do this, fill the selected container with the soil purchased in the store or prepared in advance and calcined, mixing humus into it and adding a few peat tablets. You can use special peat pots, which in the end will simply dissolve in the soil.
The soil laid in the container is watered with water with mineral fertilizer, and then the prepared seeds are planted at a distance of 5-6 cm from each other. Each is slightly buried in the ground - about 1 cm. Then the pot is covered with plastic wrap or glass and left in a well-lit place until shoots appear.
After the first pair of leaves confidently rises above the ground, the basil is transplanted into a separate liter pot with a drainage layer at the bottom and well-fertilized, loose, soft soil. If the weather permits, you can transplant the sprouts into the ground, but remember that meeting with late frosts can end up sad for them.
If you decide to start growing lemon basil outdoors, look for a sunny area for it, previously set aside for carrots, cabbage, zucchini, cucumbers or onions. It is highly desirable that it be protected from the wind by other beds, wattle or young shrubs, but at the same time not fall into their shade - this will deprive basil of the lion's share of taste and aroma.
Note! Basil propagates well by cuttings. If you have an example of an adult plant, try placing a green twig cut from it in a glass of water and wait for the roots to appear, and then transplant the sprout into a separate pot.
Care and watering
When lemon basil confidently gets out of the ground and begins to gain strength, additional efforts are required from the gardener: watering, loosening, pinching, feeding and spraying against diseases and pests.
- Water the basil daily, but avoid waterlogging the soil.
- Make sure the ground remains soft. Ideally, it should be loosened 3-4 times a month and slightly agitated after each watering.
- Pinch over 7-8 leaves of the bush and carefully remove the buds, not allowing it to grow too much.
- Feed once a month.
- Inspect the plant for diseases and pests and take appropriate action. Most often, lemon basil is threatened by black leg fungi and fusarium, peronosporosis, gray rot, spider mites, field bugs, slugs, snails and aphids.
In the photo, the greens of lemon basil
You should start collecting basil before the plant blooms: after that, its leaves will acquire an unpleasant hardness and will no longer be suitable for dishes that do not require heat treatment: salads, refreshing lemonades, sauces.
You can trim the leaves 2-3 times per season. To do this, they are carefully torn off from the bush separately or together with branches, so as to get a shoot 12-15 cm long, leaving 4-5 leaves on each stem so that the bush can develop further.
The harvested crop is laid out or hung in the shade in the open air and left until it reaches the desired state. After that, the leaves are transferred to linen bags and put into a closet, away from moisture and batteries.
Properly dried basil for 1, 5-2 years retains its aromatic properties, minerals and vitamins.
Note! Freshly harvested basil can be minced, packaged in ice cube trays and frozen.
How to use lemon basil in cooking?
As a rule, fresh basil is used in salads, cold snacks and drinks, thawed - in sauces and marinades, fresh and dry - in meat, fish, vegetables, baked goods and canned goods.
Cooking Uses for Lemon Basil:
- Refreshing drinks … Fresh chopped basil leaves are added to a jug of water along with juice, honey or sugar, pieces of fruit and berries. This drink looks especially impressive with thinly sliced orange or lemon slices and ice cubes.
- Hot teas … Together with black and green tea, put a few dry basil leaves in a teapot, pour boiling water over it and let it brew in the usual way. Some people drink tea made from pure basil, but this drink is “for everybody's taste”, besides, the effect of a concentrated broth on the health of a particular person may not be the most positive.
- Salads and cold appetizers … Basil goes well with various herbs, so you can no doubt add it to recipes for green salads, add to sandwiches and sandwiches, and decorate vegetable snacks with fragrant leaves. By the way, the famous Caprese will only benefit if the classic basil is replaced with its lemon counterpart!
- Sauces and marinades … By far the most popular sauce known to mankind with this aromatic herb is pesto. The simplest version of it gets knocked down in a blender in 5 minutes from several sprigs of fresh basil, nuts and olive oil, but if you want, you can spend a little more time and cook tomato salsa with basil, prepare a fragrant marinade or an appetizing dip - in a word, make a gravy with pleasant sourness. That is, to create from the heart.
- First meal … French pisto and Italian minestrone are unthinkable without basil, and the lemon spice gives them a special piquancy. But if desired, the spicy ingredient can be added to other soups, introducing a slight sourness into their flavor range.
- Second courses … It makes no sense to list all the recipes for main courses where basil will be appropriate - the list will be endless. Let's just say that because of the lemon flavor and smell, it is most often added to fish dishes, but meat and poultry are combined with it just as well. And the famous Italian penne with tomatoes and basil? And what about vegetable side dishes? There are a lot of options.
- Bakery … First of all, dry basil can be mixed into the dough, which gives it a slight lemon flavor. But this is not the only way it is used in making pies and muffins! Often, fresh basil leaves are stuffed or used for decoration.
- Ice cream … It would seem a strange idea, but ice cream, which contains lemon basil chopped in a meat grinder and mixed with cream and sweetener, has a lot of fans! True, one cannot taste such delicacies in an ordinary cafe.
Note! Lemon basil is often used to flavor liquor and wine.
What are the beneficial properties of lemon basil - see the video: