Arbor Gate's Picks
of the Month

Bell Pepper Basil (Ocimum selloi)

December 8, 2016 Back to Picks >

The Arbor Gate’s monthly ‘Herb Picks’ for 2014 honor the memory of Madalene Hill and celebrate her pioneering work in bringing herbs to all the gardeners of the Gulf South (and beyond). Each month’s herb is closely associated with Madalene.

February 2014 marks the fifth anniversary of the dedication of the Madalene Hill Herb Garden at The Arbor Gate.

She was our teacher, mentor, and friend.

Also called Green Pepper Basil, this relatively recent addition to the long list of basils that love the Gulf Coast’s subtropical climate rates as a winner among herb gardeners. It is unique in several ways: it is most beautiful when grown in a shady garden, it self-seeds throughout the growing season, and it is a root-hardy perennial (usually going dormant during the cold season). In protected areas, it can maintain some leaves even during the winter.

Bell Pepper Basil has been found to have a very complex chemistry, which combines (as do many herbs) numerous flavors and scents — in this case, the flavors of sweet basil with those of green peppers.

This basil can be planted almost year-round in our region. It thrives in normal, well-drained garden soil and requires somewhat less water than other basils. It begins blooming and producing seed when relatively small. You may control volunteers by removing the blooms, though they attract pollinators to the garden.

Bell Pepper Basil was discovered in Chiapas, Mexico, in the l990’s. Madalene grew it in a large pot at Festival Hill long before it was available on the market. Because it is readily propagated by seed, it eventually became available to small local growers and moved into the market place.