Devon on February 5th, 2012

If you know me well, then you know I love basil! Basil is indeed my favorite herb. I love it because there are so many kinds and it goes with everything — even fruit. If you remember, last year one of my New Year’s resolutions was to grow a basil plant from seed and keep it alive all year — which I did. I think I am going to try it again this year with a new variety. Anyways, I have compiled a list of my favorite 8, yes, I said 8. There are even more, but the list here covers a good range of flavors. Many of them also have a compact version for your kitchen or outdoor planters. Oh, a note: most people know you can dry basil — but you can also freeze it! To freeze: wash it, dry them well, then brush both sides with olive oil. Lay them out on wax paper and stack. They will freeze well and keep for a few months. Or you can freeze a leaf into ice-cubes and through them into soups or pasta sauces when needed.

Almost all these need full sun (around 6-8 hours) and regular watering. They grow quickly so the more water the better. Yet, they don’t like wet feet, so good draining soil is a must. If you use a good compost soil (Miracle-Gro Potting Mix works very well) they will not need fertilizer. To keep your plant producing, pick leaves from the top of the plant. If it starts to bolt (flower), pinch the flowers off to stimulate vegetative growth. You want your plant to put its energy into producing leaves, not flowers!

1) Genovese (Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese’). This is traditional italian basil. It’s the iconic look and taste of basil for most Americans. Tall and relatively slow to bolt (flower) with large, dark green leaves about 3″ long. The plant gets about 24-30″ tall. 68 days from seed to harvest.

2) Thai (Ocimum xcitriodorum ‘Siam Queen’). Flavorful garnish for sweet dishes. Green, 2″ long leaves have a spicy anise-clove flavor. Attractive purple stems and blooms. Called “Horapha” in its mother country, “Hun Que” in Vietnam. Plant gets about 12-18″ tall. 64 days from seed to harvest. P.S. There is another called ‘Thai Magic’ — which is more mild/sweet with just a hint of anise.

3) Cinnamon (Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’). Distinctive violet/purple stems, veining, and flower bracts with lavender blooms. Beautiful in casual flower bouquets. Plant gets about 26-30″ tall. 64 days from seed to harvest.

4) Spicy Globe (Ocimum basilicum minimum). Small, dome-shaped plants with tiny leaves — I am tiny! Spicy, sweet basil flavor packed into 1″ long leaves. Decorative plants can be grown in pots or used in garden beds. Plant gets about 8-14″ tall. 70 days from seed to harvest. It really does grow in a dome shape without any pruning.

5) Mrs. Burns’ Lemon (Ocimum basilicum citriodora). The best tasting lemon basil, with a sweet, tangy flavor. Very bright green, 2.5″ long leaves with white blooms make this basil both attractive and intensely flavorful. Plant gets 20-24″ tall. 60 days from seed to harvest.

6) Lime (Ocimum americanum). Adds a unique citrus flair to fish and salads. Compact plant has 2″ long, bright green leaves. Plant gets about 16-20″ tall. 60 days from seed to harvest.

7) Amethyst Improved (Ocimum basilicum ‘Amethyst’). The darkest purple basil I’ve seen! Nice, thick, turned-down leaves like the classic Genovese leaf — and tastes like it too. This almost-black basil is a real focal point. It makes an amazing purple pesto or adds some nice color to salads. Plant gets about 16-20″ tall. 60 days from seed to harvest.

8) Red Rubin (Ocimum ‘Red Rubin’). Vigorous, purple, Italian Large Leaf type! High yields and great flavor. Flat, 3″ long leaves stand out horizontally, and are a copper-tinged purple color. Plant gets about 18-24″ tall. 76 days from seed to harvest — longest wait that I know of.

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