Mother Earth Living

Basil Variety: Sweet Dani

A winning basil with astrong lemon flavor.
By Thomas DeBaggio
April/May 1998
Add to My MSN

‘Sweet Dani’ lemon basil, growing vigorously in the test fields at Purdue University’s O’Neall Vegetable Research Farm
Photograph by Mario Morales
Slideshow


Content Tools

Related Content

Spice Up Sweet Iced Tea with Lavender and Rosemary

Sweet Iced Tea is a delicious Southern tradition, but store-bought concoctions are often full of hig...

Growing Tips for Herbs: Why Is My Basil Dying?

Keep your basil thriving with our helpful growing tips.

Love Your Basil: Spicy Globe Basil Risotto with Ruby Jewel Sweet Red Corn

Colorful Harvest is a specialty produce company out of California and have developed a delicious new...

Green Summer: Charcoal Barbecue

Natural Home editorial intern Susan Melgren shares tips for greening your summer charcoal barbecue p...

‘Sweet Dani’, a vigorous, large-leaved green basil with a strong, fresh lemon scent, is an All-America Selection for 1998. The new basil, a hybrid showing characteristics of Ocimum basilicum and O. americanum, owes its intense lemon flavor to a high concentration of citral, up to 65 percent, in the essential oil.

Susan Belsinger, whom I worked with on Basil: An Herb Lover’s Guide, describes the aroma of ‘Sweet Dani’ as very sweet and lemony with a hint of perfume followed by a touch of mint and spice. When she tasted a leaf, she discovered a resinous, oily lemon flavor, easily the strongest lemon taste we’ve come across among basils.

The new introduction from Pan-American Seeds is the work of James E. Simon, a research professor at ­Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and his colleague in the horticulture department, Mario Morales. ‘Sweet Dani’ grew out of a bigger proj­ect Simon was working on during the late 1980s on basils’ essential oils. He became interested in breeding basils for their ornamental value. “It was a bootleg project that I thought would anchor us in reality,” Simon said. ‘Sweet Dani’ became a six-year research project on its own.

Simon’s idea was to put together a diverse group of basils, let them cross-pollinate, and see what happened. He and his staff rounded up eighty different basils—deep purple basils from Iran, treelike green camphor basils from Africa, handsome cinnamon basils with glossy green leaves and dark purple flower spikes, and many others—and grew them together on a plot at Purdue’s O’Neall Vegetable Research Farm. At the end of the season, they gathered seed from the plants and mixed them together in a paper bag.

The following year, they sowed the seeds, and soon the experimental field was full of strange and beautiful basils. The wide sweep of color, form, and bloom in the field suggested basils’ uncommon diversity. Simon prowled the field, checking the form and aroma of every plant, and selected a handful as worthy of further study. One of these was a tall plant with a lemon aroma that later became ‘Sweet Dani’. Other basils from this breeding program are likely to appear in the marketplace in coming years.

The chosen plants were dug up, brought into a greenhouse, and separated to discourage further cross-­pollination. Seed was collected from each plant, and the long process of reselection and stabilization of each plant’s characteristics began. Building up a plentiful supply of reliable seed took many plant generations, and it was several years before ‘Sweet Dani’ was ready for commercial release.

Delaware State University botanist Arthur O. Tucker identified the probable parents of the hybrid, and Simon named his plant to honor his daughter, Daniella, now seventeen, who sniffed her first basil at the age of four.

‘Sweet Dani’ is as easy to grow as other basils, either from seed or plants, both of which are readily available in garden centers or by mail order. Start seeds indoors a few weeks before the frost-free date. Keep the seedlings in a warm place and give them plenty of light. Harden them off gradually and wait to transplant them outside until nighttime temperatures are reliably above 55°F.

This is a fast-growing basil. My seeds germinated in three days, and seedlings reached transplant size in my greenhouse within twelve days and were ready for the garden within fourteen days after that. A month after being planted outside, plants were 27 inches tall and 15 inches wide and starting to produce small white flowers on 5- to 8-inch spikes. The mature green leaves are egg-shaped and strongly veined, reaching 2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide.

Like other basils, ‘Sweet Dani’ needs full sun for compact, strong growth. Water the plants regularly and fertilize every two weeks and after extensive harvests. Leaves may be harvested regularly, even from young plants, to encourage branching and maximum regrowth and to discourage flower formation.

Sprinkle leaves or flowers in salads, steep them in hot water for a tea, or add them to dishes that call for basil or lemon, such as fish and chicken. Add basil at the end of the cooking period to retain as much flavor as possible.

All-America Selections is a nonprofit organization that tests and introduces new flower and vegetable varieties, evaluating their performance in trials across North America. ‘Sweet Dani’ was selected as a winner in the vegetable category, along with ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard.

‘Sweet Dani’ is the fourth basil to win in the sixty-five-year history of the program. ‘Siam Queen’, a beautiful Thai basil, was a winner last year, ‘Purple Ruffles’ in 1987, and ‘Dark Opal’ in 1962.


Tom DeBaggio raises herbs in Arlington, Virginia. His most recent book, written with Susan Belsinger, is Basil: An Herb Lover’s Guide (Interweave, 1996).


Previous | 1 | 2 | Next






Post a comment below.

 








Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.