From garden to table

SWEET Basil leaves can be used dried or fresh in a range of delicious dishes.

They are usually added whole at the end of cooking to preserve their colour and flavour.

Basil is a regular in Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cuisines. It is also the main ingredient in pesto - just blend with garlic, olive oil and pine nuts for this tasty treat. Don't forget to chuck a few leaves of basil into your summer salads for a bit of a kick.

If basil is a regular on your menu it makes sense to grow it in your garden.

Sweet basil grows best in well-drained, fertile soil that has been enriched with organic matter so don't just shove it into the ground and hope for the best.

Preparing the soil beforehand will reward you with a great addition to the herb garden. For best results, add some mulch after planting, to keep the soil damp.

Basil loves the sun but can handle a little light shade and will be a happy camper on a sunny windowsill in the kitchen.

The leaves are ready to be picked when plant stems become woody. Pick as often as you can as this encourages the plant to keep producing. You can keep a ready supply for winter by picking off any leaves in autumn and preserving them in olive oil.