Garden Basil at its Best!
Posted May 12, 2021
Basil is the quintessential must-have herb in so many cultures; its range of culinary uses could fill several books, growing and cooking alike. I love the flavor the fresh aromatic leaves bring to soups, salads, stews, marinara and pasta, to name a few dishes. In Thailand, basil is essential in curries and the seeds are used in seed drinks; in Vietnam, its a must for salad wraps. Add basil to green salads; use in marinades and dressings; cut and incorporate it into soft goat cheese, cream cheese or butter; and substitute the larger basil leaves for lettuce in sandwiches. For many people, basil is best known as the base for pesto and caprese salad: basil leaves with sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. When making homemade pizza, I spread pesto instead of tomato sauce on the dough, add roasted red and yellow peppers and fresh mozzarella cheese, and bake. This makes a colorful, tasty, and healthy fresh from the garden pizza.
When dried, basil loses most of its flavor. Try other methods to preserve basil for out to the season use. Make pesto and freeze it for up to 6 months. Chop basil, freeze it in ice cube trays, and store the cubes in freezer bags. Or layer chopped basil with parmesan cheese in an air-tight container and refrigerate (keeps up to 2 months).
Use different basil varieties in the landscape. All basils add a fresh touch of color to the grays in the culinary herb garden, and the scent on a warm day perfumes the air. Visually basil adds interest to a mixed flower bed. For practicality, the small-leaved bush varieties both green and purple present a semi-formal edge and bring order to a vegetable border. Planted among carrots, basil adds solidity; planted among lettuces, it conveys another shade of green. Green basils combine well with other annuals like dwarf marigolds, red gomphrena, and salvias. Purple leaved varieties are a great addition to most flower borders and will set off annual vinca, alyssum, and dwarf zinnias.
The upright perennial basils grow larger than the standard varieties. Although they seldom flower in North America, the green purple, or variegated foliage makes them delightful in the middle of a flower bed. All basil thrive in containers.