Traditionally, people grow lemon basil in North Africa and South Asia. This relative of mint is a hybrid of both African basil and sweet basil. I’ve been able to trace the history of basil all the way back to the times of Ancient Greece when it was symbolic of mourning. Lemon basil is also a crucial herb for those interested in Ayurveda.
This herb is designated as an annual. It grows well in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9, often attaining heights of 2 feet to 26 inches.
Its white blooms come out in summer, as it prefers a full-sun environment. The best soil type is well-drained. Aim for a pH range of 6.1 to 7.3.
Grow Lemon Basil From The Seed
Sow your lemon basil seeds in your garden once the last frost has happened. If your growing season is short, then I suggest you start your herb seeds inside your home or greenhouse a month or two before you plan to set them out. As mentioned earlier, aim to grow lemon basil in soil that has full sun, good drainage, and rich composition.
You can pinch the tip center shoot tip of seedlings after a month and a half of growth. This forces side growth and should prevent early flowering. If they do start to develop flowers, just snip them off.
Directions For Planting
Your ideal planting temperature is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. My average germination time is anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks. Light isn’t just a necessity, but something that should be in abundance.
I plant mine at a depth of 0.25 inches, and I sow them at a rate of 1 seed every inch. Keep your seeds moist until they germinate. Place the rows 1.5 feet apart, unless you have thin seedlings, in which case you can go down to 6 inches apart.
You can guess from the very name that lemon basil features citrus notes. I find the lemon and lime notes ideal in my salads and other raw dishes. I also like how the flavor is mild enough not to overpower other flavors, so things have real subtle tastes. It’s best to chop lemon basil down at the last moment, so you can add it fresh near the end of your cooking. The flavor is delicate, so trust me when I say it doesn’t hold up well under long cooking times.
I like lemon basil not just its taste, but also as an abundant source of nutrition. It has both limonene in it, which provides anti-inflammatory benefits.
Lemon basil also has beta carotene, a pigment you find in a lot of veggies with bright colors. Your body turns this into vitamin A. This herb also has a lot of natural vitamin K in it.
Indonesians call lemon basil emangi, and they serve it with cucumber or raw cabbage, along with fried duck. They even use the plant’s flowers in salads. Cooks in Thailand often use lemon basil in their different curries. They also use it in Khanom chin, a fermented noodle dish. Malaysians like using it in Nasi Ulam, which is a dish made of rice, veggies, and different herbs.
Here in the West, many use lemon basil with seafood or they chop it up and serve it with julienned veggies. I personally like it in sweet applications, as I do anything from adding it to pastries or used it simply lemonade syrup.
If you can grow in the applicable hardiness zones with great soil and full sun, this is a healthy herb with remarkable taste. Bring something organic from your garden to your kitchen table, now that you know how to grow lemon basil. For growing more herbs at home, read our guide on growing them in containers.