In September 2015 we covered several commonly grown basils. This time around we will talk about some new varieties of Ocimum Basilicum that have distinctive qualities. I hope this information will peak your interest to try at least one of these unique basils.
I mentioned in the 2015 column that I was growing pesto perpetuo basil because it did not flower and was said to be rabbit and deer resistant. This means you do not have to pinch off flowers to keep ahead of the plant bolting to seed. Remember basil is an annual whose goal is to set seed! I ordered three plants from Burpee. They sent them in April in accordance with their hardiness zone map. They arrived in great shape and were a healthy seven inches tall. I set them in the house in a sunny spot until May when I repotted them in larger containers and put them outside where they flourished. I cut 5 inch sprigs off the top of three stems and rooted them in water. I now have three plants for this season. Remember, seeds are not an option since this basil does not flower.
Pesto Perpetuo basil is a delight to behold with its medium sized white and light green variegated leaves. We like its lemony-basil flavor. It was prolific all season. In October I brought it in the house. Throughout the winter it was spare but I am harvesting the last of the leaves this week. My husband Mike and I add our accolades to other reviewers on the Burpee Website. Since we grew the plants in protected pots, I can't address whether they are rabbit or deer resistant. We have to cover all pots with wire or cloth because of squirrels and chipmunks. Living with nature is a constant challenge. Summerlong basil is a variety I plan to grow this year. It is a French basil and Burpee exclusive. On line reviewers who purchased plants say it is tasty, produces all summer and is slow to bolt to seed. I like that it has shiny bright green leaves, is compact and will do well in pots which is my preferred method of raising basil. Reviewers who purchased seeds were not all happy. Lots of factors affect growing from seed and I rarely enter that realm. It is a long process and so many things can go wrong. You can read the reviews on the Burpee Website.
Another Burpee exclusive is Pesto Party basil. I will grow it because it is hardy to 32 degrees and is late to flower and bolt to seed. This could extend the outside picking season into fall. It is said to have a sweet Italian basil flavor and tasty in cooking, salads and pesto. They claim it resists downy mildew, a problem I have not had with basil. Have you?
My third adventure will be with San Remo basil. Its attraction is that it tolerates cold weather better than most and can be harvested summer to early fall. It is said to be disease resistant although I have not had a problem in that regard. It grows to 36 inches tall and has shiny dark green leaves the size, aroma and flavor of Genovese basil. These qualities make it a good candidate for pesto making. Yeah! There are many varieties of basil and each has a particular flavor, aroma and look. I have found that when participants in my classes taste basil and other herbs they perceive flavors differently. Let your taste buds be your guide when purchasing basil or any "edible" herb plant.
Basil does well in moist, rich soil that remains around fifty degrees all year. It germinates, however, at a much warmer ground and air temperature. Tehachapi's cold nights and soil make this annual herb a slow starter, and short season tenant. Fresh flowers should be removed to promote leaf growth and are a tasty and aromatic addition in salads. Potted plants can be kept indoors during the cool evenings and set outside for six hours of sun each day. In winter find the plant a sunny spot and most will last a good while indoors. I grow my basil in this manner all year.
Basil's rich, spicy flavor makes it one of the most popular cooking herbs. It is a vital ingredient in Italian, Mexican, and Asian cooking. It pairs tastefully with tomato dishes, soups, stews, cheeses, salads, ground meat, salad dressings, and vegetables. It blends well with garlic, grated cheese and olive oil. Add nuts and you have the ingredients for the ever popular pesto sauce. Fresh basil leaves can be frozen in plastic bags or chopped\blended with a little water and put in ice cube trays. It will keep for a few days when washed, loosely wrapped in a paper towels, and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It can also be stored in the refrigerator, bouquet style in a container with water at the bottom. Leaves can also be immersed in oil or vinegar for specific, short term use. I don't use dried basil, because it lacks flavor and color.
All basils are a tasty and aromatic addition to flower beds and the general landscape. I hope you will join me and try some of the newer varieties. Please contact me at email@example.com if you have experience purchasing and growing any of these plants.
Enjoy an herbally adventuresome month!