Cinnamon basil Photo by Amanda Wray under the Commercial Creative Commons 2.0 License.
Once herbs like basil have been harvested from the plant, their flavor and texture begins to fade. Photo by Francis Bijl under the Commercial Creative Commons 2.0.
Thai basil has a fennel or anise-clove flavor. Photo by Doug Beckers under the Creative Commonst Attribution license 2.0.
If you want to ramp up the interest in your herb garden try growing an unusual basil. There’s enough basil varieties to plant a garden dedicated to them.
1. Dark Opal Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)– Beautiful purple-burgundy leaves brushed with green makes opal a stand out in the garden. Nice peppery flavor. 12″-20″ tall.
2. ‘Pesto Purpetuo’ Basil (O. basilicum citriodorum) — You’ll have to clue your guests in on this beauty because they probably won’t recognize it as a basil. It’s leaves are variegated with pale green and edged in cream. Pesto Purpetuo grows to 48 inches tall, is non-flowering, and has a peppery flavor.
3. Lemon Basil (Ocimum × citriodorum) — This basil variety brings a refreshing lemony-zesty tang with it. 18″-24″ tall.
4. ‘Genovese’ Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese’)– Big, fat basil leaves with big, fat basil flavor. A must have in the kitchen garden & perfect for pesto. 15″-30″ tall.
5. Cinnamon Basil (O. basilicum ‘Cinnamon’) — Broad, green leaves with purple stems and flowers, cinnamon basil has a fresh and spicy cinnamon flavor and scent. 24″-30″ tall.
6. Lime Basil (O. americanum ‘Lime’ ) — Narrow-leafed lime basil has a citrusy-lime flavor with a strong, tangy scent. 12″-18″ tall.
7. ‘Purple Ruffles’ Basil (O. basilicum purpurascens) — A gorgeous, colorful specimen in the garden and has stronger basil flavor than regular sweet basisl. 15″-20″ tall.
8. ‘Christmas’ Basil (O. basilicum) — is a cross between Thai and Genovese basils and has a flavor all its own. Christmas basil is described as having a fruity, mulled-wine flavor with a touch of pine. Beautiful purple flower display. 15′-20′ tall.
9. Thai Basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora ) — Resembles cinnamon basil with its green leaves with purple stems and flowers, but the leaves are narrower. Brings a dash of fennel or anise-clove flavor to dishes. 12″-18″ tall.
10. ‘Spicy Globe’ Bush Basil (O. basilicum ‘Spicy Globe’) — This basil has teeny, tiny leaves packed with pepper flavor (say that three times fast). I love the different baby sweet texture of this variety.
How to Keep Cut Basil Fresh
Once herbs like basil have been harvested from the plant, their flavor and texture begins to fade. This is one of the best reasons for planting your own garden — the herbs can be harvested mere minutes before you use them.
On of my favorite ways to keep cut basil (and other herbs) fresh is make little bouquets out of them, just as you would a handful of flowers. Fill a short vase with just enough cool water to submerge the stems. Do your best to keep the leaves from sitting in the water.
I usually leave them on the kitchen counter to enjoy their foliage and scent until I chop them up for a recipe. You could also refrigerate them.
If it’s your first season growing basil, check out How to Grow Basil.
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