Basil is a popular herb and easy to grow in the garden. One of the main tricks to getting abundant harvests is to regularly pinch the tips of the plants to both encourage branching and to prevent it from going to flower. Once basil plants initiate flowering, it is difficult to stop the process and when it flowers, the leaves of the basil plants are smaller and less flavorful.
Basil plants, if left to their own desires, grow one main stem. When they reach around 6 inches tall, pinch the stem back by half and leaving ¼ inch above a set of healthy leaves (see illustration). This causes branching and encourages the plant to grow more leaves. As they send out new branching stems, continue to pinch the tips of these stems back. During the heat of summer, basil should be pinched about once a week to encourage a long abundant harvest. Along with pruning, it is also important to provide regular fertilization. Basil grows best in a sunny, warm spot in well-drained, fertile soil.
Tarragon is one of the easiest perennial herbs you can grow. Be sure to start with a plant labeled “French tarragon” and avoid the much lower quality, “Russian tarragon.” Russian tarragon doesn’t have near the wonderful flavors that the French tarragon has.
Grow French tarragon in a mostly sunny spot. It prefers well-drained soil and likes to grow on the dry side but not extremely dry. French tarragon never goes to seed and is only propagated by divisions of a large plant in early spring or by cuttings. One plant usually provides enough herb for a season. Tarragon doesn’t dry well like other herbs so be sure and enjoy it freshly picked. It can also be frozen in small amounts for later use.
Tarragon has a flavor suggestive of anise or licorice and is very sweet. It is used in poultry, fish and meat dishes and in vinegars and omelets. It is also quite tasty when you add a small amount of fresh tarragon to a salad.