Each year, I plant about 5-6 small plants into a very deep planter like the one shown here. It's important to have a deep planter for the roots. I've found if I plant in a shallow planter, the plant is sparse and just doesn't have that volume one gets from a large planter. Now, I've always pruned the flowers off when it starts to bloom, just by nipping them with your fingers at the base of the vertical flower and that seems to thicken it up. But, recently, someone told me that they read you should lop off about 6" down the branch of leaves? If anyone has any input about this, please comment or contact me. Other than watering and getting rid of those hideous japanese beetles, basil is very easy to care for.
The best thing to do with basil, in my world, is to make Pesto out of it! Pesto is a wondrous food that I personally like to make a huge batch of every year and freeze. The secret to freezing pesto is to not add the parmesan cheese into the recipe and after you load into small 4oz jars, put a layer of olive oil on top. The olive oil helps the pesto to retain it's colour. The drawback of basil is that it goes brown very quickly and the olive oil acts as a protective coating on it. I'll be making my Pesto within the next week and will post the recipe and photo at that time.
Basil is primarily a fabulous additive to food, however in Italy was used to symbolize courting. A man would give a woman he was interested in a sprig of basil to show his intentions. We all know how much Italians use basil in their foods...I think they found the secret of cooking with this herb!
You can also use basil leaves and rub them on insect bites to reduce inflammation and itchiness. If you pour boiling water onto the leaves in a pot and inhale, it will help the common cold because basil fights infection and clears mucus. It can aid digestion, help expel gas, prevent constipation and relieve stomach upset. The only precaution given for basil is not to use if pregnant because it can stimulate menstrual flow and has actually been used to assist with expulsion of the placenta after birth, so definitely, don't use in tinctures, teas, etc if you are pregnant!
If you do nothing else with it, just pick up a bunch at the beginning of your cruise around the grocery store next time and inhale as you push the buggy....I guarantee by the time you get to the checkout, you'll feel so rejuvenated....it actually will clear your head, make your concentration better and give you an all round sense of well-being.