Basil Possibilities

Bonnie Nowicki

I recently read an interesting article about the herb basil that was originally published in 2017 by Ciscoe Morris, a great garden expert I admire. I’d like to share some of his basil findings.

I was aware that basil has great taste and is very popular for cooking, but I didn’t know there are more than sixty varieties, and many have colorful leaves and interesting textures and flavors. This makes them especially nice additions in container gardening or mixed garden border designs. Ciscoe mentions Red Rubin with its dark purple leaves and intense, spicy flavor. Even darker in color are the wavy leaves of Purple Ruffles. They are stunning in garden combinations and containers, and also a delightful addition to salads, adding a clove-licorice flavor. One of the hardiest varieties of basil is African Blue, which features lavender-streaked foliage and pink blossoms. You’ll want to grow it as an ornamental, since its flavor is somewhat overpowering. On warm, sunny days its oils release an amazing basil aroma throughout the landscape. Sweet basil with its bright green leaves is used in making pesto and is the most recognized variety.

Basil is full of disease-fighting antioxidants and is high in vitamins and calcium.
You’ll want to plant basil in hot, sunny locations and water frequently. You can amend the soil with compost and a bit of organic vegetable fertilizer. Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow, but as a tender annual, it won’t survive 40-degree night temperatures. Before flowering occurs, harvest regularly by snipping off the ends midmorning, before the sun bakes out the oils. Let the stems rest in water for a few hours. Preserve basil by freezing the leaves after blanching them in boiling water for two seconds. Layer them between sheets of waxed paper, then freeze.

Perhaps you should consider planting some colorful basil as a summer garden border or accent plant in a favorite container. The possibilities for growing and cooking with basil are endless. Happy gardening and thanks, Ciscoe, for your great suggestions.