Used in many Italian dishes or to add springtime freshness to any culinary concoction, basil comes in many varieties, each with their own characteristics.
Basil is one of the most fragrant and easiest of all the herbs to grow in your spring garden.
Introduced to England in the 16th century, it made its way to America in the 17th century.
It flourishes in the warmth of the Mediterranean countries, where it is so successfully combined with sun-ripened tomatoes.
The famous, basil pesto, was created in Genoa (northern Italy), usually consisting of crushed garlic, basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, blended with olive oil.
7 Types of Basil Plants
The most common variety – easily accessible from a local home improvement store.
Also known as sweet basil. Large leaves with intense flavor and a wonderful aroma.
Commonly used in the aforementioned, Genovese sauce. Produces white flowers. By pinching out any flowering heads, the plant will continue to produce fragrant leaves until early Autumn.
Has a slightly spicier flavor with licorice undertones.
Works well in Asian dishes because it is native to Southeast Asia.
Produces narrow leaves, purple stems, and pink-purple flowers.
Just as its variety name indicates, it tastes like standard basil laced with cinnamon.
Ideal for ice cream and desserts. Also known as Mexican Spice Basil.
Difficult to find in the United States.
Beautiful ornamental annual because of its small, pink to purple flowers from July to September, in warm climates.
4. African Blue
A type which can be a perennial in year-round warm climates.
African blue basil starts out purple when young, only growing green as the leaves grow to full size, and even then retaining purple veins.
All parts of the plant are edible. Popular to steep for tea.
A hybrid grown primarily in northeastern Africa and southern Asia, enjoyed for its fragrant lemon scent.
It has white flowers in late summer to early fall and the leaves are slightly serrated.
Popular in Indonesian dishes, it can be used in any dish where lemon is a component.
6. Lettuce Leaf
Some retail nurseries carry this variety.
Its large, crinkly leaves are very aromatic and fresh tasting.
Great for wrapping fish; chopping into a salad; or freshening up a rice dish.
7. Micro Opal
Is a micro-green packing a powerful punch.
With hints of lemon and lime notes, it has a crunchy, velvety texture – great on salads.
Difficult to find except for specialty cultivators, specializing in micro-greens.
Based on MY experience, Basil is relatively easy annual to grow.
I typically start from seedling (small, baby plant), planting in the spring, once the ground is warm.
Depending upon the variety, some can grow up to 24-inches tall, so plan accordingly.
It is because of their height, I have found the best success by planting in a deep pot, such as 24″ deep, to allow for good roots.
Although I grow in a container, I still wait until the ground is warm – approximately two weeks after 40º nights.
Do not overcrowd the pot.
I only plant (2) seedlings per 18″ diameter pot.
Basil loves full sun; in well-drained soil because its roots cannot sit in water.
Semi-rich nutrient soil with a pH level of 6-7 is good.
Consider fertilizing once a month if your watering frequently.
You do not want the soil to become dry and crumbly.
Because I live in zone 7, I usually water twice a week – if no rainfall.
Medicinal Uses for Basil
Because basil contains antispasmodic agents, a standard infusion of fresh basil leaves can help with indigestion and constipation, adding honey and lemon, it eases chest congestion and bronchitis.
According to John Lust’s, The Herb Book, steep 1 tsp of dried basil in 1/2 cup of water.
Take 1 to 1 1/2 cups each day, a mouthful at a time. I think I will just incorporate my vinaigrette recipe on my salad…
Creamy Basil Vinaigrette
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves = 1 ounce
- 1/4 cup roasted garlic
- 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Put basil, garlic, Parmesan, and vinegar in a blender.
- Cover and blend till thoroughly combined.
- With the blender running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream of oil through the lid.
- Transfer to a small bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Chill before serving if desired.