Basils make a beautiful addition to the home herb garden. They are flavorful in SO many ways! Basils include approximately 150 species, mostly from Asia, Africa, and South America that have spread throughout the world as culinary and ornamental herbs. There are four basic types of basil: sweet green basil, dwarf green basil, purple-leafed basil and scented basils.
Basil is grown as an annual in most zones under 8 since it dies down at the first frost. Basils requires full sun and well drained soil although it is not particular about rich or poor soils. Pinching back the flowers will encourage growth and increase harvest. There are many varieties and flavors of basil, all aromatic and worthy of a place in the garden or in a pot on the deck or in the kitchen. Harvest basil before it flowers by cutting whole stems which are then loosely bundled and dried in a cool dark place. Store the bundles in a dry dark place. Individual leaves may also be picked and frozen. Following are a few of the many varieties available.
Sweet Basil —(Ocimum basilicum)
The most common of the basils and the most often used, Sweet Basil has a pleasant clove-like flavor that is pungent, strong and slightly spicy. Plants grow to 2.5 feet in height by flowering time.
Purple Basil –(O.b. `Purpurascens’)
This is a pleasant dark purple/bronze colored basil that provides a striking contrast to the greens of the garden. It reaches a mature height of 15-18 inches with white flower spikes. The leaves are highly scented and pungent.
Dwarf Bush Basil –(O.b. `Minimum’)
This basil grows in the form of a globe and normally doesn’t exceed 8-10 inches in height. The leaves are small and the flavor is milder than the larger basils. It grows well in pots and is a nice addition to the indoor kitchen garden. I grow this in a small container on the deck. In the late summer bush basil will develop white flowers which should be pinched off to encourage more leaf growth.
Lemon Basll — (O.b. `Citriodorum’)
The lemon flavor of this basil makes it a very noticeable addition to the garden. Lemon basil grows shorter than sweet basil, normally around 18 inches, and has white blossoms in the summer. Lemon basil falls into the scented basil category.
Lemon basil has moderate levels of beta-carotene and high levels of vitamin K, both are renowned for their anti-inflammatory properties. Lemon basil also contains small amounts of potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium all of which are vital for proper body function. Lemon basil is a common herb used in Thai, Laotian, Indonesian and several Middle Eastern region cuisines.
Lettuce Leaf Basil –(O. crispum)
The largest leaved basil, the lettuce leaf basil is also the most robust. The 3-4 inch leaves are puffed and crinkled like lettuce leaves. The white flower spikes should be continuously removed for a good harvest of the leaves.
Holy Basil –(O. sanctum)
Holy basil can be used in cooking but the taste is very unlike the more spicy sweet basil. Native to India, its rich aromatic scent is enjoyable just for itself. Holy basil will grow to 18 inches and blooms in summer with pinkish/purple flower spikes.
Camphor Basil — (O. kilimandscharicum)
This is an ornamental herb not generally used for cooking. The long (3 inch), hairy, light green or gray green leaves provide the strong camphor scent. The plant can grow to 3.5 feet and has small white flowers.
Learn about how to use basil for wellness.