To celebrate spring and the arrival of the growing season here in the northern hemisphere, I thought I’d share a recipe that has become somewhat of an institution, here at The Café.
I seldom repeat posts, but since we’ve gained thousands of new readers over the past year, I would be negligent to omit this wonderful little trick that will save you money and bring lots of fresh deliciousness to your culinary endeavors in these warm months to come. We’ve had fun adding tips we’ve learned and taking some spiffy new photos! If you’ve never tried this before, be sure to make this the season!
It’s a “recipe” for How to Propagate Basil from Cuttings. You won’t believe how easy it is to generate an abundance of offspring from just one little basil plant. I’ve been multiplying my basil with this technique for years and honestly, it’s almost too good to be true.
If you’re a regular visitor here at The Café, you may have noticed that I use basil quite extravagantly in my cooking, and garnishes. I even like to decorate with it – if you visit me in the summer, you’ll often find a big bouquet of basil adorning my kitchen counter in lieu of fresh flowers.
When I’m cooking with basil, I often think of the well known quote: “You can never be too rich or too thin”. I have to say, that I heartily disagree with both of these premises. As far as “never being too rich”goes , I think Solomon, known as “the wisest of all men”, summed it all up quite nicely; “Give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name”.
And too thin? That part makes me mad! With so many young, beautiful girls suffering from social-induced image problems like bulimia and anorexia, it breaks my heart that a thin, lean body has become an icon of female beauty. The most beautiful women I know range from being short, tall, large, small, young, old and all places in between!
Now basil… that’s a whole different story. Although we grow a lot of basil each summer, it seems like I could always use more. One of my favorite recipes ever, Sweet Basil Vinaigrette calls for a quarter pound of basil – have you ever seen how much basil it takes to make a quarter pound?
Yes, I do go through a lot of basil each summer season, and a number of years ago I learned a wonderful trick I employ each spring to ensure a bountiful basil supply.
Every year, right around this time, I purchase a live basil plant at my local grocery or big box store. I look for the biggest, healthiest one I can find. They ‘re easy to find right now, and a nice size plant usually costs less than three dollars. Sometimes they are planted in a small pot of soil, but most of the time, I’ll get the hydroponic basil*.
When I get the pretty little plant home, I cut it up into 10-12 pieces. What?!
Yup, basil is very easily propagated, and your kitchen window sill is the perfect place to start a little “basil nursery”. One plant can yield up to a dozen lovely basil offspring for spring and summer enjoyment.
So, pick up a fragrant green basil plant next time you shop and follow the “recipe” below. It will take about two weeks (sometimes a little longer), but you’ll have enough basil plants to get you through the entire summer.
If you have limited space and/or can’t use that much basil, go ahead and root them anyway – they’ll make great gifts for your “foodie” friends – believe me, they’ll be thinking quite fondly of you each time they snip, snip, snip.
Have some questions about growing basil? Scott is the gardening expert here at The Café. He keeps my little herb garden super healthy and happy. You can also check out his recommendations for keeping basil pest-free in his post, How to Grow Pest-free, Healthy Basil.
Happy basil rooting!
How to Propagate Basil from Cuttings
- 1 large, full, healthy basil plant, either potted or hydroponic*
- kitchen scissors or a sharp knife
- small glass containers
- fresh tap water
2. With a kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut 3-4 inch cuttings (they may end up being a bit longer depending on where the first leaf node is) right below a leaf node; this is where a leaf joins the main stem. Although your little cuttings will eventually sprout roots all the way up the stem, the leaf node is generally where the new shoots will begin.
3. Remove leaves off cuttings on the lower 2 inches. (I place any basil leaves that are left over in a small plastic storage container and store them in the refrigerator till I need them for cooking.)
4. If there are tiny leaves at the leaf node, don’t worry about these.
5. Place cuttings in small glass containers of water on a bright window sill. Choose an area that gets lots of light, but not direct sun, as the little plants could go into shock at this point with hot sunshine. You can put 4-6 cuttings in each glass. The cuttings might wilt a little at first and you may lose a few, that’s normal. You should have plenty that survive.
6. Watch the water levels carefully, adding water to keep stems immersed. Change the water every other day to keep it fresh. (Be sure it’s not too cold on your window sill. Basil loves warmth and doesn’t do well if it gets a chill.)
7. After 5-7 days you will begin to see some tiny white roots forming.
8. Each day more and more will appear. Let the roots grow to about 2 inches. Continue to change the water every other day. The process will take 10 days to 20 days, from start to finish.
9. You are now ready to plant your plants outdoors in a sunny spot with good drainage. Keep the plants protected from super hot sun for a week or so until they get established. They’ll start growing new leaves and shoots soon and before you know it, you’ll have tons of fresh basil!
* A note about hydroponic basil – this type of basil is grown in a very controlled environment, so you have to baby the plants a bit at first. When you purchase the basil plant, make sure it’s protected when you carry it out of the store, especially if it’s a cold day. When you get it home, it’s best to let it sit in the little plastic protective wrapping for at least 12 hours before removing it. This will help it to adjust to the temperature in your home. Don’t add too much water, just enough to keep the roots nice and damp. If the stems are sitting in too much water, they will rot before you can even blink!
The cuttings may look a bit droopy after a day or so. They are just adjusting to a new environment; keep the water level full and be sure to change the water every other day. A little warning; like I mentioned earlier, sometimes some of the “little offspring” just don’t make it – it’s too shocking for their system – you should have plenty of others that do just fine!
Don’t be snitching basil during this growing period. That’s a good way to put them into irreversible shock. I’m telling you this from personal experience! (The husband/photographer is giggling at this point!)
Once you plant your new little herb family, they will need plenty of water, especially in the hot summer months. They will wilt, droop and their growth will be stunted if they don’t receive enough moisture. I am very forgetful and lazy when it comes to watering plants. Years ago, my husband Scott devised an ingenious system that keeps my herbs healthy and beautiful during the scorching summer weather we experience here in the Carolinas. Check out this post and you’ll be able to see for yourself how this simple and ecologically efficient drip system works!
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