Herbs & Spices · Siam King & Queen

Taiwanese Basil: all grown up!

Haven’t written about my taiwanese basil 九層塔 plants, who I nicknamed siam king (白骨 green/white stemmed) & siam queen (紅骨 purple/red stemmed, not to be confused with the actual siam queen cultivar of thai basil), for almost two months now. I started them from cuttings, letting them root in water, before planting them in soil.

From last time, they have grown from these toddlers:

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To these grown-ups!

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The above grown-up photo is taken exactly 48 days after the toddler photos running in the slideshow up top, proving that propagating herbs via cuttings is definitely quicker and easier (and possible) compared to starting from seeds.

I can’t help but wonder in spite of being lumped together in Taiwan markets as the same thing (they just call it 九層塔, which I am loosely translating to Taiwanese Basil), that they are of different cultivars.

The pot on the left is of the white-stemmed variety while the right is of the red-stemmed variety. As they mature, their differences have become quite obvious, from the overall plant look, leaf size, and intensity of smell (the red-stemmed has a more intense tangy taste while the white-stemmed has a sweeter almost grassy taste).

Upkeep was hassle-free. Watering when the soil is just dry, balanced fertilizer biweekly or longer, and frequent pruning to encourage bushier growth. Because of their fast growth, I moved them into a larger pot along the way.

March 30: After a couple days in soil. 
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April 4: Showing much more leaves with sturdier stems.
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April 7: Time to move to a bigger container to aid further growth.
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April 14: Growing taller and leafier. 
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April 19: The white-stemmed (top image) has a more spread-out foliage, while the red-stemmed (bottom image) has more clustered, compact foliage.
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April 26: Lots of baby leaves!
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When May arrived, their growth increased exponentially, which I think it is due to the warmer summer weather.

May 2: Growing robustly in the warm weather. (Experimenting with companion planting, those are red-leaf lettuce seedlings popping up).
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May 6: Two full months since placing the stem cuttings in water!
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May 9: All grown up!
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Quick recap on my experience of growing Taiwanese basil 九層塔:

  • These Taiwanese basil are easy, hassle-free and fast-growing herbs. It definitely helps that they are native to the region.
  • Mine did best in partial shade, around 4 hours sunlight daily.
  • They are great plants for the balcony, adapting super well to containers.
  • Watering is straightforward enough, whenever the soil gets dry (I stick my finger around 2 cm in the soil and get a feel) I give the plant a deep long drink. Which for me right now is about 900ml of water per pot (place a plastic saucer at the bottom to catch spillage) every four or five days.
  • Use them often! Pruning encourage bushier growth.
  • They are not too picky about soil as long as it drains well. I’m using a slightly acidic peat-based potting soil with added perlite and vermiculite.
  • I give them a nutrition boost with balanced organic fertilizer biweekly.
  • No pests encountered so far.

And the conclusion? They are so worth growing. Not only do they take minimal effort, they are so versatile! Here is a tiny list of my uses of Taiwanese basil so far without a full kitchen.

  • Black pepper ham, fresh Taiwanese basil and pepper jack cheese in croissant
  • Chopped finely and mixed with cream cheese to spread on toasted bread
  • In scrambled eggs (cooked)
  • In salads (fresh)
  • In chicken dishes (cooked in pot or steamed)

With my experimental ways, the list will definitely keep on growing! Yummy!

The Vege Girl Project: Day 69

 

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