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Cooking with tomatoes? Bust out the basil!

Cooking with tomatoes? Bust out the basil!

A container or garden-corner for growing basil will complement your tomatoes—in the landscape and in the kitchen.

Basil is a culinary herb that’s related to mint but is perhaps best known for complementing tomatoes in recipes of all types.

The tender plant is featured prominently in the cuisines of Italy and Southeast Asia and typically is grown as an annual—commercially, in home gardens and in container plantings. It’s sensitive to cold and thrives in hot, dry conditions and well-drained soil.

Basil plants can be started from seed or transplants or propagated from cuttings. Pinching off flower stems before they mature will encourage basil plants to continue producing the essential oils that give them their flavor, and pinching other stems will encourage leaf production.

In general, fresh basil is added to cooked recipes just before serving, to deliver maximum flavor. Leaves can be refrigerated for a short time in plastic bags.