Basil is a mainstay of everyone’s herb and spice rack. Its sweet flavor can be found in just about any type of recipe; from soups, sauces and salads to all types of meat, fish and poultry. It’s recently become a popular addition to herbal teas and infusions due to its many nutritional and health benefits.
Types of Basil
As the uses for basil continue to evolve, so has the plant itself. Plant hybridizers have created basil varieties with bigger leaves for bigger harvests, smaller leaves and more compact plant habits for growing in small-space gardens and containers, and a beautiful assortment of varieties with purple-toned foliage to add a dash of color and a fresh twist to your favorite recipes.
Caring for Basil
Basils are easy-care annual plants. Give them a sunny situation planted in light, well-drained soil. Water regularly and you’ll be rewarded with a long season of flavorful foliage. Harvest the leaves as needed but take care not to remove more than a third of the entire plant at any one time. The best time to harvest basil is in the morning when the plant’s aromatic oils are at their peak. Snip basil sprigs just above a pair of leaves (this is where new buds will emerge to replace the foliage you are removing).
Like all plants that are grown mainly for their foliage, flower stalks should be removed as early as possible. With the exception of a few varieties that have showy flowers, it’s best not to let your basil plant flower. Flowering takes a lot of energy from the plant and can reduce the flavor of the leaves. Just pinch off any flower buds as they appear. Basil flower stalks can be used fresh in beverages or infused in oil or vinegar. Dried flowers are perfect for use in potpourri and sachets.
Popular Basil Varieties
Here are some of the many popular basil varieties you’ll want to try. Click on each one to learn more:
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