Basil also known as Saint Joseph’s Wort is an herb that actually is in the mint family. Basil is rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium. Originally native to India, today it is widely used and mostly associated with Italian cooking, especially with making pesto sauce.
Basil comes in over 40 varieties which makes it very versatile. One of the easiest herbs you can grow, Basil has numerous culinary uses whether it is in pesto or salads or drinks. I can hardly wait to plant a few different Basil plants on my deck. Here are just some of the top varieties that you can plant and how to use them.
This is the best choice for Italian sauces and soups and for making pesto. Varieties include Genovese, Napolitano, Italian Large Leaf and Lettuce Leaf. Plants range from 14 to 30 inches tall and are prolific in hot, sunny locations. Harvest the top four leaves often to keep the plant growing and sweetly flavored.
This basil variety can be added to salads and fish dishes. A sprig of Lemon basil also tastes great in a glass of iced tea. The 20- to 24-inch plants are light green with white flowers and 2½-inch-long leaves.
With small green leaves on compact, 12- to 16-inch plants with white flowers, this basil variety's lime scent and flavor makes it great in fish and chicken dishes. A simple syrup infused with Lime basil is a delicious addition to tea and margaritas.
This basil variety has a delightful fragrance and spicy flavor. A beautiful, 25- to 30-inch-tall plant with dark-purple stems and flowers accented with small, glossy leaves, it's great in fruit salads and garnishes.
With 2-inch, glossy green leaves and purple flowers, Christmas basil adds fruity flavor to salads and drinks, and the plants are gorgeous in the landscape. A beautiful border plant, it averages 16 to 20 inches tall.
Sweet Thai Basil
An Asian variety with a distinct, spicy, anise-clove flavor, quite unlike common sweet basil, sweet Thai is a must-have addition to Asian cuisine and makes a nice addition to the herb garden for fragrance and color. It has purple stems and blooms with green leaves reaching 12 to 16 inches tall