Fresh From the Garden: How To Use Basil

Bring good taste to your garden and kitchen with this fragrant, flavor-filled herb.

| June/July 2008

  • The perfect couple: Flashy ‘Red Rubin’ basil teams up with classic ‘Genovese’ to create a stir in the garden and on the plate.
    Rick Wetherbee

Whenever I’m uncertain about what to prepare for dinner, I head for my garden basil supply. Before long, one of them asserts itself and I know just what to cook. Sometimes, the licorice and fennel scents of ‘Siam Queen’ stand out, inspiring me to harvest its leaves for a fresh vegetable stir-fry. Other times, the spicy notes of ‘Cinnamon’ basil put me in the mood for cinnamon basil scones. Or ‘Genovese’ basil’s mint, clove and thyme aromas might call to me, turning my thoughts to an extraordinary chicken, spinach and basil quiche.

With more than 50 varieties available in a range of colors, flavors, textures and forms, basil (Ocimum basilicum) offers rich possibilities for adventurous gardeners and cooks. Imagine the striking contrast you can create in your garden or on a dinner plate by pairing the purple-bronze leaves of ‘Red Rubin’ basil with sunny ‘Lemon Gem’ marigolds, for instance, or by mixing purple-streaked ‘African Blue’ basil with the green leaves and purple flowers of ‘Siam Queen’ basil.

Finding room to grow a bunch of basils won’t be difficult either. A member of the mint family, this exuberant annual will thrive in the kitchen garden, ornamental border, herb bed, pots and planters. Here’s all you need to know to begin your exploration of the bountiful world of basil.       

• Basil Varieties: 10 Basils You'll Love 

Basil Recipes:
• Lemon Basil Pesto Sauce
• Basil Pesto Pizza 

Grow Your Own Basil

In the garden, this classic summertime herb responds to sunlight and warmth. For a bountiful crop with full-flavored leaves, choose a site that receives at least six hours of direct sun each day.

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