Last time I promised more information on herbs in the family Lamiaceae. If you researched like I asked you to in June, you have discovered this next featured herb is also in the mint family.
Although it is not considered a mint in most culinary circles, basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a cousin of the Mentha and Nepeta mints and, like its cousins, has both sweet and savory aromas and flavors.
Basil has many uses and is probably the most popular herb in my kitchen. The flavor goes well with most other herbs and a wide-range of cuisines. Even simple dishes like tuna salad or deviled eggs just wouldn’t taste as good without the addition of a few freshly-chopped basil leaves.
Here on the farm, there are several types of basil cultivated. They are all grown for their culinary value, but they make a nice accent plant as well. In fact, a few years ago, I noticed how well some of the cultivars worked to aesthetically-complete some of the flower beds. They fill in nicely where more green foliage is needed to make the other colors of the flowers "pop," so to speak. That is why I started growing literally hundreds of basil plants and use them as interplantings in the flower beds.
Sweet Basil and Italian Large Leaf Basil are two of the most popular ones I grow for general cooking. They grow to a height of up to 30 inches; therefore, they are interplanted with taller flowers and shrubs. Try planting a row of tall basil as a back drop for zinnias or coneflowers, and you will get a lot of attention from your envious neighbors.
Blue Spice and Spicy Globe Basil are two mounding types with a spicy bite to them. I mostly use them, along with Thai Basil, for Indian and other Eastern dishes. The mounding basils grow to about 12 inches tall and wide. These make great border plants or interplantings with low-growing flowers. A row of low-growing bushing basil planted half-centered to a row of marigolds or pyrethrums certainly enhances the garden’s overall look.
Basil is grown as an annual here and is easy to grow from seed or from stem cuttings. As long as the nighttime temperatures are at 55° F and the day time temperatures are around 70° F, basil will grow quickly. Seed germinates in about 6-9 days while cuttings will start to root in water within a couple of weeks.
It is best to keep the flower-stalks trimmed off in order for your basil to keep branching out. But, if you are like me and grow several hundred plants, leave a few basils with the seed stalks on. Bees, hairstreak butterflies and hummingbirds will all feed on the flowers.
There are dozens more cultivars of basil and hundreds of uses for them. Plant some today!
Thanks for reading!