Fragrant, flavorful, extra-large leaves are the very favorites of the culinary world! This is a Genovese basil, rich in oils and so aromatic you will smell it long before you see it in the garden! Whether you use it for pesto, spaghetti sauce, or simply as a companion to your tomato plants (basil is a superb pest repellant), choose Large-leaf Italian as your "go-to" mainstay basil for big, satisfying harvests all summer long.
Basils are loaded with volatile oils, responsible for the heady aroma and strong flavor so essential to cooking. Large-Leaf Italian basil is regarded as the essential variety for true Neapolitan cuisine, especially pesto. And in the garden, basil works to repel aphids, mites, and hornworms.
Expect this Genovese-type basil to grow 18 to 24 inches high and 12 to 15 inches wide. The dark green, shiny leaves grow up to 3 inches long on a tall, erect plant that is slow to bolt. Small terminal bunches of pink flowers will bud out in summer; pinch the new buds away if you want to harvest more of the leaves!
Begin the seeds either indoors in late winter or direct-sow in spring. To start indoors, sow about 6 to 8 weeks before last scheduled frost. The seeds will germinate in 5 to 10 days. Transplant when they have 2 sets of true leaves, spacing the plants 12 to 15 inches apart in the garden, or in your best containers.
If you are direct-sowing, wait until the soil has thoroughly warmed up in spring. Then cover the seeds with about ¼-inch of soil, and thin the young plants to 12 to 15 inches apart when they are about 2 inches tall.
As your basil plants grow, pinch off the central stem when they are about 6 weeks old, and prune back each stem when it has more than 8 sets of leaves. (Cut it back to the first or second set of leaves, harvesting the rest.) If you keep your plants well pinched and pruned, you should be able to harvest half a cup of fresh leaves every week during the growing season!
Basil loves hot weather and plenty of sunshine, but it needs consistently moist, rich soil. Mulch the plants to retain moisture, and water heavily during dry spells.
Harvest the plant before the cold weather sets in, as this will affect the leaves' texture and flavor. Freeze entire stems, with the leaves still attached, for best flavor retention, or dry the leaves for seasoning. You will always be assured of a big harvest from Large-leaf Italian!