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Fresh basil pots lined up along grocery store shelves are a temptation for any cook. Bursting with green life and alluring aroma, they hold the promise of many tantalizing dishes to come.
But when you get the herbs home, they’re too often a disappointment. They soon start to fade, losing their color, wilting, and even dying off before you can make the most of them. And worst of all, they usually taste nowhere near as good as you’d anticipated.
Thankfully, there’s no need to give up on grocery store basil as an inexpensive source of freshly picked flavor. With just a few minutes’ effort, you can make them the long-lasting stars of the kitchen they deserve to be.
How to Divide Basil Pots
The pots you buy may look like a single bushy plant, but in reality, they contain a dozen or more individual seedlings, packed much too tightly together to thrive for long. However, it’s easy to give the seedlings a little more breathing space and lengthen their useful lifetimes.
- Take your store-bought herbs, and slide them out of the pot, earth and all.
- Using your fingers, gently tease the earth apart, separating it into four equal clumps. Don’t be too rough, but also don’t worry about tearing a few roots along the way.
- For each quarter, you should have no more than four or five seedlings growing. If there are more, reduce their number by cutting the smallest, weakest ones back to soil level.
- Plant each quarter into a new pot, the same size as the original, and fill it up with high-quality potting mix.
- Water the soil well, and place the pots in a warm, sunny spot.
Within a few days, your seedlings should recover from their transplantation shock. Enjoying more space to spread their wings, they’ll soon start to grow into healthy, bushy plants that will survive for months, gifting you a reliable supply of fresh leaves.
Video: How to Save Your Supermarket Basil Plant
Watch the video below for a step by step demonstration on saving your supermarket basil!
More Growing Space = Better Flavor
As they’re under less stress from overcrowding, the seedlings will be able to devote more energy to producing those aromatic essential oils which make basil such a flavorsome herb.
But if you’d like even more flavor, place some of your pots in the warmest, sunniest spot you have, such as high in a greenhouse, and leave them to grow while you harvest the remaining pots for culinary use. The warmer the plant as it grows, the higher the oil content, and the stronger the flavor.
Will This Method Work For Other Herbs?
Although this method is perfect for basil, it’s also good for other store-bought annual herbs, including parsley, cilantro, and mint. However, don’t try it with rosemary, thyme, oregano, and other bushy herbs which are already potted up as single plants.
Instead, to give these herbs an extra lease of life, re-pot them into a container at least twice the size of the original. They’ll reward your effort with bushier growth and a better taste.
Growing your own herbs from seed is the least expensive way to gain great ingredients for your kitchen. But if you don’t have the space, time, or energy, store-bought herbs are an ideal alternative, so long as you give them some space once you get them home.