Mother Earth Living

Love Your Basil: Lemon Basil

By Staff

Ramona Werst has a love for growing, caring for, and cooking with basil. There are over 30 different varieties of basil in her current collection, and she is adding to her collection all the time. She creates recipes to use with different basils and will teach you how to Love Your Basil! Visit her blog,, to download her free e-book,Love Your Basil.

My love for basil started by wanting to enhance my culinary skills, but once I started collecting this amazing herb and cooking with it I wanted to share with everyone how to grow, care for, and cook with basil.

Lemon basil is beautiful and aromatic. When you press leaves
between your fingers you can smell a light lemony scent.
Photo by David Werst

Summer is fast approaching! I always think of refreshing beverages, salads, cooking out on the grill and fancy delicious fruit desserts.

Photo by zoyachubby/Courtesy Flickr

Lemon Basil Varieties: I grow several basils to celebrate summer: lemon basil, Mrs. Burns’ lemon basil, Thai lemon basil, Penang lemon basil, lime basil, Key Lime basil and Spicy Globe basil.

Growing Tips: Lemon basil is easy to grow, but sometimes it sprouts slowly. Have patience with it and make sure its soil is moist and warm. Like all basils, the ideal temperature is in the mid-70 degree range. Even though in my area of Texas our days can get up to 100 degrees, my basils are kept in the shade and seem to manage all summer long. Just make sure you refresh them with a drink of water (but not on their leaves!) during the heat of the day.

Planting lemon basil in containers and placing these containers around your patio will help repel mosquitoes and flies. Also, planting lemon basil in your tomato garden will repel pests that enjoy eating your tomato plants.

Cooking Tips: I can use any of my lemon basils to make Lemon Basil Syrup for lemonade. With my lime and Spicy Globe basils, I can prepare different fruit desserts. Simply adding chopped leaves from any of your basils can add a tang to your salad. Also, try adding a sprig of lemon or lime basil when you are grilling fish. When I grill fish, I will wrap my fish in foil and sprinkle it with spices, squeeze a little lemon on it, add a couple of slices of butter, and top it off with a lemon basil sprig. Next, I will fold the foil and cook it on the grill. Some people use cilantro, or parsley, but I use lemon or lime basil.

Now, don’t go and replace your lemons in recipes with lemon basil! Use the basil like a spice to add to your lemon recipes to add a different pleasant flavor.

If you garnish your ice tea with any of the lemon basils, you can advise your guests to rub the basil between their fingers just enough to bruise the basil, which will release its flavor, put it back into their ice tea and stir. This will add just a hint of lemon basil flavor to their beverage and your friends will enjoy learning the tips and secrets of using basil in their cooking and drinks. I still garnish with a fresh lemon slice. Although it adds a special mild flavor all on its own, the lemon basil is not strong enough to replace the flavor of fresh lemon.

Enjoy a freshly squeezed glass of lemonade
made with homemade lemon basil syrup.
Photo by David Werst

Try my recipe for Old Fashioned Lemon Basil Lemonade. Prepare the Lemon Basil Syrup ahead of time to dissolve and blend all the flavors. This will leave a smooth and refreshing lemonade flavor. (Click here to watch a video of Ramona prepare her Old Fashioned Lemon Basil Lemonade.)

Lemon Basil Syrup

• 1 cup water
• 2 cups sugar
• 1/2 cup lemon basil leaves, loosely packed
• 1/2 of one lemon

1. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan; add sugar, lemon basil leaves and lemon (without squeezing it) to the water and stir.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down and allow the mixture to remain at a simmering boil for about 5 minutes. Cool the mixture to room temperature.

3. Strain the basil leaves, and discard the lemon. You can refrigerate the lemon basil sugar water in an airtight container.

Old Fashioned Lemonade

• 1 lemon
• 12-ounce glass filled with ice
• 1 tablespoon Lemon Basil Syrup (Use this according to your sweetness preference.)

1. Squeeze lemon juice from one fresh lemon into a glass filled with ice. Add some lemon basil syrup according to your preference to how sweet you like your lemonade,then fill glass with filtered water.

2. Put another glass on top of the glass and shake the mixture well.

3. Garnish with lemon and lemon basil.

You, too, can enjoy the many benefits of learning to grow, care for, and cook with basil. The Herb Companion is a treasure of news and tips in learning all about the fascinating basil and other healthy herbs.

Ramona Werst grows and cares for her lemon basil plants
year round and uses them in many recipes.
Photo by David Werst

I’m Ramona Werst, teaching you to Love Your Basil.

  • Published on May 4, 2010
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