Gosh I’m so cross with myself. I had three huge pots of gorgeous aromatic basil in the greenhouse and I kept meaning to pick bunches of it to dry or to chop and freeze ready for soups and spaghetti dishes. Of course like an idiot I kept leaving that particular task because there were always more important jobs to do.

Now after a sudden cold night the poor old basil plants completely succumbed and are  just pathetic wilted stalks. How stupid am I? The supermarket basil isn’t a patch on mine and I shouldn’t need to buy it.

I find basil so easy to grow. Once the heavy frosts are past I fill three large pots with gravel, then well rotted horse manure (got plenty of that) and top dress with about three inches of seed and potting compost.

Then I just sprinkle the seed on the surface and press in with a little block of wood I’ve had for donkey’s years. Following a good sprinkling of water I cover the pots with large clear plastic bags which seems to help the seeds germinate quickly.

I never thin out the seeds, I just leave them to fight it out and since they have plenty of natural nourishment they virtually all survive and thrive. This year I had the best basil crop ever. Not only did we use it lavishly in salad dressing and cooked dishes all summer and autumn there was more than enough to present friends and visitors with huge bunches of this delicious ambrosial herb, which I have to admit next to flat leaf parsley is my all time favourite.

Basil is certainly one of the most important culinary herbs, its leaves are impregnated with tiny oil glands that release the sweet fragrance of this herb when touched or crushed. It can grow well in full sun in a sheltered place but since it is cold sensitive the safest place to grow it is in a greenhouse or on a windowsill.

The green leaves of basil are frequently used in salads and are one of the main ingredients in marinara and pesto and are also a base for Thai cooking. When cut fresh, it combines well with balsamic vinegar and as well as being excellent in salads (especially when combined with beefsteak tomatoes) it is used frequently as a garnish or flavouring for veal, lamb, poultry, pasta, fresh mozzarella cheese, grilled vegetables and even some egg dishes.