If you’re a fan of aromatic herbs, then you’re in for a treat with cinnamon basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’). This variety of basil boasts dark green leaves, about two inches long, with gently scalloped edges and deep veins. What sets this herb apart is its distinctive purple-red square stems and its alluring cinnamon scent. In this article, we’ll dive into the joys of growing and caring for cinnamon basil, as well as explore its many culinary uses.
Growing Cinnamon Basil from Seed
Cinnamon basil is relatively easy to grow, but it requires a bit of patience. The seedlings are slow to develop at first and can be delicate, so it’s best to start them indoors. Once they’ve reached a reasonable size, you can transplant them into pots and eventually move them outdoors. Remember to keep the compost slightly dry, but never let it completely dry out. Potting on the seedlings when they’re large enough and planting them out after hardening off is recommended. Give each plant a generous 12-inch spacing for optimal growth.
Cultivating Cinnamon Basil All Year Round
One of the great things about cinnamon basil is that it can be grown indoors in pots all year round, ensuring a fresh supply of this delightful herb for your kitchen. To prolong the growing season, start the seeds indoors in early spring and then transplant them outdoors once all danger of frost has passed. Germination typically takes around 14 to 20 days, depending on the temperature. Whether you choose to sow the seeds in pots or directly in the ground, you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest of aromatic leaves.
Location and Care Tips
Cinnamon basil, like other basil varieties, flourishes in full sun. Originating from Mexico, it’s more tolerant of hot climates but appreciates a bit of afternoon shade in scorching weather. Providing well-drained soil and regular watering is crucial, as this herb doesn’t like wet feet. Additionally, cinnamon basil thrives in rich soil and benefits from a good layer of mulch. The more organic material and fertilizer it receives, the more lush its leaves become. For leaf harvest, ample fertilizer and nitrogen are recommended as they promote leaf growth and reduce the likelihood of premature flowering.
Embrace the Beauty of Cinnamon Basil in Bloom
While it’s often advised to remove the flowers on basil plants for increased leaf production, cinnamon basil presents a tempting exception. Its pink flowers and dark burgundy heads stand out against the vibrant green foliage, creating a visually stunning display. Growing multiple plants and allowing some to flower is a worthwhile endeavor. Contrary to popular belief, cinnamon basil can still produce a decent crop of leaves even after flowering. The flowering period can stretch for quite some time, adding an enchanting touch to any garden until the frost arrives.
Tips for Successful Cultivation
Basil is a tender plant that cannot tolerate frost, so it’s essential to harvest the leaves before the weather turns cold. In regions without frost, basil plants can thrive for two or more years. These plants can tolerate slightly acidic soils, but if the pH is below 5.7, adding lime when preparing the soil will help maintain optimal conditions. When growing cinnamon basil in pots, ensure that the roots have ample room to grow. These plants can reach heights of up to three feet and require sufficient space to develop robust leaves. Insufficient room for root growth can lead to premature flowering and plant death.
Promote Airflow and Keep Chemicals Away
To keep your basil plants healthy, it’s crucial to provide ample airflow. If you’re planting a row of cinnamon basil, keep the plants at least two feet apart. When incorporating them into a border, make sure to leave some space around them to facilitate airflow. Pay attention to the planting location, avoiding areas with poor airflow, as cinnamon basil is susceptible to fungal molds. Additionally, prevent chemical contamination by keeping your basil away from areas where chemicals are sprayed, such as lawns or neighboring properties. Always wash the leaves thoroughly before consuming them.
The Versatility of Cinnamon Basil
Cinnamon basil is a remarkably versatile plant that can be grown in various settings. Whether you have hanging baskets, pots, or a sunny windowsill, this herb will thrive and provide you with fresh basil throughout the winter months. Regular harvesting of the leaves will help keep the plants compact and manageable. Not only is cinnamon basil a delicious addition to your culinary creations, but it’s also a valuable source of essential nutrients. Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, and magnesium, it offers a multitude of health benefits. Furthermore, it can be used as a companion plant in the garden to repel aphids, mites, and tomato hornworms.
Harvesting and Edible Uses
When it comes to harvesting cinnamon basil, there are a few key tips to keep in mind. Once your basil plants have grown to about twelve inches, pinch off the central stem. Subsequently, prune back each stem once it has more than eight leaves. Harvest the fresh, young leaves as needed, as this encourages the plant to branch out and produce more leaves. It’s crucial to harvest the leaves from the tops of the stems, taking only about one-third of the stem to promote regrowth. When harvesting, use snips or scissors to cut the leaves instead of tearing them, as this can cause wounds and leave the plant susceptible to infection. For optimal yield, continuously harvest new leaves, and each plant should provide about half a cup of leaves weekly throughout the season.
Cinnamon basil boasts a range of edible uses. It’s perfect as a garnish, adding a savory touch to raw dishes, soups, and even as a unique substitute for regular cinnamon. Steeping the leaves in water and sugar creates a flavorful syrup that can be used to enhance desserts or replace traditional cinnamon. While the delicate leaves are best used fresh, you can freeze them for later use. However, dried leaves lose their aroma quickly. If storing fresh leaves in the refrigerator, they should last for about a week.
So, why not embark on a culinary adventure with cinnamon basil? Its enticing aroma, vibrant appearance, and versatility make it a must-have herb in your garden or kitchen. To explore the wonders of cinnamon basil and other herbs, visit the Ames Farm Center and start cultivating your own herbal haven today!