Basils – generally in Ocimum americanum or Ocimum basilicum – are an ornamental annual flowering plant that is mostly grown for its leaves as a culinary herb, and sometimes for its attractive, fragrant flowers. Plant height is from 1 to 2 feet tall, and it will spread up to 2 feet wide. Blooms appear from June to frost. Once a stem produces flowers, foliage production will stop on that stem. The flowers must be pinched back to keep foliage production continuing.
Basil leaves are used as a seasoning in many vegetable and meat dishes as well as being an important ingredient of pesto and other condiments – especially in Italian cuisine. Depending on the species and cultivar, there are many different flavors and colors. When cooking with Basil, it should be added at the last moment since cooking quickly diminishes the flavor. Fresh Basil can be refrigerated for a short time in plastic bags.
The 2 important types of garden Basils are Ocimum americanum and Ocimum basilicum.
1. Basil (Ocimum americanum)
The common names include Hoary Basil, Lime Basil, and Lemon Basil. Flowers are white to pale blue and grow to 2 feet tall. The erect plants produce an aromatic smell when crushed. Grown for the scent and flavor that is different from other basils. Sometimes served raw by itself, or blended with raw cabbage or green beans or cucumbers, or as an accompaniment to fried fish or duck. The flowers make a zesty salad condiment when broken up.
2. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
The most common grouping of garden basils with a wide variety of colors and flavors and most widely used in Italian recipes. Also used fresh or dried in soups, and for flavoring chocolate sauce to top ice cream. The flower buds have a subtle flavor and are edible. Sweet Basil is the most widely used variety within this group.