Chances are you want to grow fresh, flavorful basil in your garden this spring. But then you go down to your favorite garden shop (Arbor Gate, of course) and discover there are more varieties of this king of herbs than you realized. Which one should you choose? To help you out I’ve reviewed and categorized some of the more popular basils, based on how they’re used:
Best for Overall Cooking: Sweet and Genovese produce large, flavorful leaves that can be used fresh or dried for winter cooking. Both are ‘can’t miss’ basils.
Spicy Flavor: Spicy Globe basil produces small leaves with a distinct spicy flavor. Can be pruned to maintain small size or allowed to grow to a hemisphere over 3 feet in diameter.
Pesto Lover’s: Genovese and Mrs. Burns are considered among the best by those who really know pesto. Be sure to harvest sections regularly to maximize your overall leaf yield.
For Asian Cooking: Thai basil and holy basil are commonly grown in Southeast Asia. Thai basil is more suitable to Western palates. Holy basil has something of a camphor overtone that needs to be blended with other herbs such as cilantro and lemongrass for best results. Holy basil is also useful in dried potpourri.
For Herbal Vinegars: Red Rubin and Purple Ruffles are burgundy colored basils that add an appealing ruby tint to herbal vinegars. They can also be used fresh in stir-fry dishes for color contrast.
Attractive in the Garden: Thai and Siam Queen basils product an attractive maroon flower cluster. Pesto Perpetuo is a tall columnar basil that produces pesto-worthy leaves edged with white with dark-green blazes in the center. Purple Ruffles provides a nice contrast to other green herbs. Snow White is a new flowering basil grown more for the flowers than the leaves. Spicy Saber has serrated leaves with a strong flavor good for Asian cooking.
Basils for Marinade: Lemon basil has the classic basil flavor with a citrus overtone that’s good with chicken and fish. This is an Asian species that grows well in Texas. It may self-sow in your garden.