Basil is one of the most popular spices in the world, included in recipes for all types of food. Growing your own Basil is both fun and frugal.
All Basils (yes, all for as you will see there are lots of forms of Basil) share the same horticultural requirements: summer, sun, warmth, decent soil, average water. Slugs and snails like Basil as much as we do so vigilance is another requirement. In our climate, Basils will not do well in winter.
Now to all those Basils.
Probably the most popular Basil, the one that most markets sell in bunches and is included in lots of Italian dishes, is Sweet Basil. It’s a nice looking, small green plant. There is also a large leaf form of Sweet Basil that I personally favor.
Basil Spicy Globe has a slightly spicier but similar flavor to Sweet, but grows into a more compact, globular form……in other words a tidier plant.
The family of Thai Basils have a touch of cinnamon in their flavor, grow somewhat taller and bloom with purple flower (if you are not harvesting regularly). Two named varieties are Floral Spires and Siam Queen.
Lemon Balm adds a tangy touch of lemon to the Basil flavor.
Another group of Basils grow with purple leaves. These include Purple Ruffles, Opal and Amethyst (plants not gems).
Now we get to one of my favorite all time plants which I grow more for its beauty than its flavor. Basil African Blue grows over the course of a summer from a four inch plant to a two foot tall and wide plant with a hazy blue cast to the plant and dark blue flowers. It’s a little hard to describe in words, but is magic in the garden, especially as an accent plant. African Blue is a perennial but will sulk in the winter before perking up in the warmer months. The leaves are edible but, frankly, for flavor alone I would choose one of the others.
This is a lot of information. However, I have barely scratched the surface of the knowledge of one of our Horticulturists T Rogers Gardens, David Rizzo, King of All Plants Edible. David is available and likes nothing more than talking with people who want to venture into vegetables and herbs.