Let’s talk basil! Probably our most favorite herb that we grow, we have to limit ourselves to just two varieties as we’d grow way too much of it left unchecked.
Native to India and stretching up into Southeast Asia, Basil is decidedly in the warm-loving camp of plants. When you can give it heat, typically in a greenhouse or high tunnel in colder climates, it can really grow fast and prolifically during the peaks of summer. It can be grown outdoors in northern climates, but will grow slowly and produce much lesser quantities.
Most people are familiar with the typical Genovese (sweet) type of basil, but there’s an entire world of them to explore. An estimated 50 to 150 species exist, featuring extremely unique and interesting flavor and scent profiles. You can derive all sorts of flavors from different basils, including anise (licorice), lemon, lime, cinnamon and clove.
Etymology of the term “basil” is rooted in both Latin and Greek, with the original meaning being “royal plant.” In France, it is often referred to as “l’herbe royale” or the royal herb. It is thought that basil was likely used as a primary ingredient in royal perfumes used by kings and queens, thus the clear tie to royalty in its etymologic roots.
We try to grow Genovese every year, as it’s just so flexible and useful in the kitchen. It’s a regular in our Caprese salads, Basil Mojitos, Pelmeni and several other favorites. We alternate our second variety among the vast varieties and usually change it up once we run out of seeds or our seed stock gets up there in age.
We do love our basil, it’s a highlight of our summer growing season and a favorite of our gardens!