Genovese basil is the most common variety of basil grown by both commercial and home microgreen growers.
Basil's popularity among foodies and chefs is because Genovese basil adds such intense fresh flavor to a wide variety of food. Genovese, also called sweet basil, is also packed with vitamins and vital nutrients.
Basil is often labeled as a difficult microgreen to grow.
We don't find that the case when you follow a few different steps from some of the easier and quicker growing microgreens.
This article will layout those steps as well as discuss the nutritional and culinary value of Genovese basil microgreens.
Growing Genovese Basil Microgreens
Before we get into the nutritional value of basil microgreens, we'll go over a few of the basic steps necessary to grow them.
If you're more interested in the nutritional information, click this link to skip down to that section.
How to Grow Basil Microgreens
Basil seeds are mucilaginous, this means that when the seeds get wet, a gel-like substance called mucilage forms. You can read more about mucilaginous seeds by clicking this link.
As such, mucilaginous seeds require a bit more care and observation than other microgreens. Because the seeds get sticky with mucilage gel, they're often labeled as difficult to grow.
However, if you follow the steps below, you'll find Genovese basil is an easy microgreen to grow. Even first-time growers will have no problem growing these beautiful and tasty microgreens.
Basil seeds are quite small, so you have to be careful planting them. The seeds take 2-days to germinate and up to 20-days before they're ready to harvest. However, because they grow slowly, they can be harvested over a long period.
Genovese basil tastes very similar to the mature herb, they're more tender and have a sweeter fragrance. They also provide a ton of flavor to food.
Ten Easy Steps
Below are the ten steps to follow to grow basil microgreens. For a more detailed explanation of how to plant microgreens, watch the step by step video in Growing Microgreens for the First Time.
The steps below show how to grow basil microgreens using the Home Microgreen Kit. If you don't have the kit, the photos will show you what you need to grow microgreens.
You can click images to expand their size.
When you see bold text, these sections are very important to grow basil and other mucilaginous seeds.
Note: Some of the images below are of the beta Home Microgreens Trays (opaque trays & red lids). The black trays and opaque lids are the new Home Microgreens Trays. Both are similar-sized, but the later use much less soil and are therefore more economical.
Add a premium potting mix to the planting tray. A planting tray needs small holes in the bottom so water can be drawn up from below. This is better than top watering microgreens as it keeps the greens clean.
The soil should be firmly compacted and level just below the top of the tray. Read this article on why I believe soil is the best media to use to grow microgreens
Use a spray bottle to wet the soil surface with un-chlorinated water. Allow the water to soak into the soil, then respray the surface.
If you see depressions or high spots on the soil, use your fingers to level the surface.
Never pre-wet basil seeds. They're mucilaginous and will stick together. More on this below.
Add your Genovese basil seed to a shaker bottle. A shaker bottle will allow you to spread the seeds more evenly.
There are between 16,000 to 17,000 Genovese basil seeds in an ounce. Other varieties of basil may contain less or more.
That's between 560 to 600 seeds per gram. For Genovese basil, you want about 15 seeds per square inch. So if your planting tray surface is 37.5 square-inches you'd add 1.0-grams of basil seeds to your shaker bottle.
The photo below shows 1-gram of Genovese microgreen seeds or about 3/8's of a teaspoon.
Now that the soil surface is prepared, and the basil seeds are in the shaker bottle, it's time to sow them.
Start sprinkling seeds onto the soil by working the shaker bottle in concentric circles around the planting tray. It can be helpful to hold your spare hand around the tray, so seeds don't bounce out.
Spread the seeds as evenly as possible across the surface.
This is very important for basil because it's possible that mucilage produces biochemicals that will slow the growth of adjacent seeds.
You may need to unscrew the top off the sprinkler bottle to get the last few seeds out of the bottle. Once all the seeds are out of the bottle, use your finger to spread out clumps of seeds to areas with fewer seeds.
Below are photos of sown Genovese basil seeds before and after wetting. Notice the mucilage on the wet seeds. It appears almost immediately after the seeds are watered.
After the basil seeds are planted, it's time to get them ready to germinate. Use the spray bottle again and wet the seeds. Go easy, so the seeds don't fly off the tray. The water will also help settle the seeds into the soil.
You will see the mucilage form almost immediately.
It's important, however, to not over wet the seeds. The mucilage will retain water, so the seeds don't need as much as other microgreen seeds.
Now place the planting tray inside the watering tray. A watering tray is one that doesn't have holes and will hold water. Use a similar size tray, like in the Home Microgreen Kit, or you can use a larger tray.
Place a cover on the seeds (don't seal the tray tight), if the cover is transparent or opaque, use a tea towel or cut a piece of cardboard to fit the cover to keep light off the seeds.
This is called the blackout phase.
It has also been reported that basil seeds will germinate just as well under a clear dome. We will test that theory in a future post and link to it here once it has been published.
Assuming, for now, that we are going to blackout the basil seed, place the trays where you will grow them or on a seed heat mat and place a weight on top. Don't worry, the growing plants are strong and will lift the cover as well as the weight as they grow.
Leave the seeds and tray alone for 4-days. The basil seeds should start to germinate between 1.5- and 2-days, especially if the tray is on a seed heat mat or the room temperature is above 75-degrees.
But leave the cover on, the mucilage is sticky and lifting the cover will pull seed off the soil surface. The plants need to be established before the cover is lifted. The mucilage and cover will keep the seeds and young seedlings hydrated over that length of time.
Just let the seeds germinate and grow.
On day 4 you can look at the seeds. You'll see that germination has taken place and the basil seedlings are growing!
At this point, you have a decision to make. Take a look at the germination rate, if it looks good and the seedlings are similar to the ones in the image below you can remove the lid and allow the young plants to receive light.
If the basil plants are smaller, or the germination rate is low, replace the cover for another day or two.
Check the soil surface to see if it's dry.
If so, use the spray bottle and wet the surface again and place the cover back over the tray. Let the seeds germinate for another day or two before checking on them again.
Now that the basil microgreens have germinated and started to grow it's time to get them under a light. There's a lot of discussion about what type of light is best for microgreens. I think it's best to give them as much light as possible.
After all, light is where the plants get their energy to grow. Whether it be sunlight, cheap LED lighting, or a special grow light, give them as much as you can. Don't fret over it, just do the best you can with what you have.
White or yellow plants are not a problem, once under a light they will turn dark green. If the soil surface looks dry, use the spray bottle to wet the surface. But this will be the last time you use the spray bottle.
The only care that the basil microgreens will need once under light is watering. Don't water them from the top, instead, water from the bottom. Here's where the watering tray comes into play.
Memorize the feel of the dry tray. Judging the weight is the best way to know when to water the microgreens again.
Add water to the watering tray, a quarter of an inch works at first. Set the planting tray in the water and allow it to absorb the water from below.
Watering from the bottom keeps the leaves and stems dry, eliminating the possibility of damping off disease and stopping soil from splashing up on the plants.
The first time you water you may have to add more water because the majority of the soil in the tray is dry. Afterward, you won't need to add as much water.
Every other day check the weight of the tray to see if it needs water. The need will depend on the humidity and amount of air moving across the tray.
Harvest time! After 12 to 20 days Genovese basil microgreens will be ready to harvest.
You can let the basil grow. Many microgreens have a limited shelve life; not basil, let it grow if you want. Because it's grown in a tray, eventually it will need to be cut, but you might have up to 40-days before that's necessary.
To harvest, tip the tray about 45-degrees over a cutting board or a large plate and using stainless steel scissors, or a very sharp knife cut the basil microgreens just above the soil surface.
Try not to disturb the soil. If some soil does spill, it's okay, use your hands to fluff the cut microgreens the soil particles will fall to the board or plate where you can wipe it off.
It's always recommended to wash microgreens before you use them (I don't if they are dry and clean) to be sure no bacteria is on the microgreens.
Only cut what you're going to use that day. Replace the growing tray under the light and let them grow so more.
If you do harvest the whole tray and need to store them in the refrigerator keep them dry and squeeze the air out of the storage bag.
In the photo above, you can see the first true leaves forming. They're the oval leaves oriented east-west. The cotyledons are the leaves shaped like half circles aligned more north-south.
In the photo below, you can see that the harvested microgreens have their second set of true leaves.
That's all there is to growing Genovese basil microgreens.
Basil seeds are mucilaginous and require a few precautions.
- Don't pre-wet the seeds;
Take extra care to space the seeds on the planting tray;
Don't over water the seeds; and
Be patient with germination.
Besides that, they're no different than other microgreens.
If you have any questions feel free to use the comment section below the article to ask. I'll get right back to you.
Genovese Basil Microgreen Nutrition & Flavor
Basil microgreens contain Vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.
They also contain the following minerals: calcium, choline, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
Furthermore, basil has chlorophyll, amino acids, and many antioxidants.
You can download a chart presenting the vitamins and minerals for the most commonly grown microgreens by clicking the button below.
For more in-depth nutritional and health information about basil microgreens visit Dr. Axe's website.
Basil Microgreen Flavor and How to Use Them
Basil microgreens add freshness and intense basil flavor to your foods. We know it's not cool to say basil tastes like basil, but we're sure most people know its flavor.
The microgreen version of basil has a more intense flavor than the mature leaves without that chemical-like aftertaste that older basil can have. The micro-basil leaves are also more tender and mature basil.
You can use micro-basil in the same way you'd use the herb basil. We love fresh micro-basil in eggs, on salads, and as a garnish on tomato sauce dishes. You can also add micro-basil while cooking like you would the herb.
Interested in Growing Genovese Basil Microgreens?
Want to try growing your own basil microgreens? Use the buttons below to take a look at a basil microgreen kit, or if you have the supplies, basil microgreen seeds.
Have a Question?
If you have any questions about the information in this post or microgreens, in general, please leave a comment below or reach out to me using the Ask a Question page.
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