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Garden Lifestyle

Lemon Basil

I haven't met a lemon basil that I didn't like.

  • Close-up lemon basil leaves; 'Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil' is my favorite cultivar.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Peak of season--this plant needs harvesting!
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Lemon basil leaves are lemony without the anise flavor in sweet green basil.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

I haven’t met a lemon basil that I didn’t like. These basils are all predominantly lemon-flavored and do not have any of the anise taste that the others do. ‘Mrs. Burns’ is my first choice, a sturdy, dependable plant with lovely lemon aroma and flavor, which seems to grow a bit taller and have somewhat larger leaves than the common lemon basil.

Fragrance: Big lemon nose, resinous and oily, with a hint of cinnamon and a floral note.

Flavor: Clean and assertive lemon zest followed with light spice and hint of mint.

Other similar recommendations: Other lemon-flavored basils recommended are: O. x citriodorum ‘Lemon’, O. x citriodorum ‘Sweet Dani’. Common lemon basil does a respectable job with lemon fragrance and flavor though a little dull compared to ‘Mrs. Burns’, and often has somewhat smaller-leaves. ‘Sweet Dani’ has a big lemon bouquet, very strong, lemon flavor; the plants are more compact  and not quite as tall as other lemon basils. 

Hopefully, you have been keeping up with your lemon basil harvest right along with your sweet green basil harvest. All types of basils benefit by keeping the plants cut back throughout the season. I cut mine back about 4 to 5 times during the growing season, which allows the plant to multiply and florish and also keeps it from flowering. Once you let your basil flower, the leaves turn somewhat bitter and will produce no more; it wants to make seed. So the idea is to keep it going so you can get maximum harvest yields until September or October, depending upon your growing season and then let it flower for the pollinators.

I’ve been enjoying lemon basil in many seasonal recipes throughout the summer as well as drying it, making aromatic herbal paste, lemon basil herb syrup and lemon basil cordial. Check out the next blog for recipe ideas.


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