Basil is perhaps the quintessential herb of summer. An essential herb in pasta sauce, pesto, caprese salad, stir fry; basil is used in many culinary dishes across the globe. It is a plant soaked in history and lore.
Greeks and Romans believed one should curse when sowing the seed to ensure germination. Basil found its way to Western Europe via the spice traders in the 16th century. Since this time Mediterranean food has been infused with basil. In India, Holy basil, or Tulsi, is considered sacred, a goddess. It has also been said basil helps keep away flying insects. It is great to plant it near your tomatoes (rumors that it helps improve their flavor).
Basils contain a variety of volatile oils that fluctuate according to variety and growing conditions. Sweet basil varieties have mostly anise and orange blossom scents with little camphor. European varieties add a little spice with cinnamon aromas. Asian varieties are high in clove whereas African varieties are rich in camphor and anise.
Besides a prolific use in the culinary realm, basil has also been used in a tea to aid digestion, help with a cold or flu, migraines, insomnia and bug bites. Since it is in the mint family, the flowers help attract beneficial insects. Several varieties are very attractive and make lovely additions to the floral border.
A cross of camphor and opal Basil. Very attractive dark green leaves with purple undersides. Tall variety getting up 3-4’ tall. Strong camphor and anise flavor.
A very attractive dark purple leaf Basil.
Fusarium resistant, Genovese type. Classic appearance and aroma. Height 20-24″. Mild, sweet anise flavor.
Annual with brownish green leaves and purple stems and flower buds, pink flowers. Rich cinnamon scented. This variety originated in Mexico.
Compact, bush-type Basil with miniature leaves is perfect for pots, container gardens or borders. Small, aromatic leaves. Spicier than Italian Basils, but still sweet and extremely flavorful, holds up well when cooking. Short plants have an attractive, rounded growth habit.
An Italian variety heralded to be the best for pesto. Large dark green leaves. Plants reach 18-24” tall and wide under ideal conditions.
Grows 24″ tall. Distinctive cinnamon and cloves aroma. Dense upright habit. Medium-sized leaves. Grow in full sun and well-drained soil. Pinch off flowers for leaf production.
Large, tender, dark green Basil leaves are very sweet, excellent for pesto and other Italian dishes. Upright, 18-24″ plants are hardier than other Basils.
Italian Heirloom! Huge, 5″”x5″” crinkled leaves. Mild sweet anise flavor. Great on sandwiches. Grows up to 24″ tall and wide. Napoletano is another lettuce variety.
Delightfully strong aroma. Fresh citrus like flavor. Delicious with fish and in salad dressings. 12” tall x 15” wide. 12″ x 15″. Bolts easily, so frequent. Mrs Burns is a variety that is slower to bolt that we carry on rare occasions at Portland Nursery.
Similar to Cinnamon Basil but with a stronger anise flavor. Lovely purple stems, flowers and undersides of leaves. Nice for tea and flavored vinegars. Grows 18-24” tall and wide.
Culinary Basil with striking twist of lime. Grows to 24”.
Sensational tricolor. A masterpiece of flavor and form! Growing to 48” for pesto by the pound. Mild, sweet anise flavor. Very ornamental, makes a nice cut flower.Easiest variety to overwinter indoors.
The perfect combination of ornamental appeal and intense, great flavor. Nicely vigorous, purple Italian large leaf type Basil. The best red for vinegar’s and oils! 12″” tall x 10″” wide. Mild, sweet anise flavor. Very ornamental, makes a nice cut flower.
The classic in the Basil world. Sweet robust flavor, great for pesto and other dishes that require Basil. Grows 18-24” tall and wide in full sun.
A spicy Thai Basil with purple stems and flowers. Grows 18-24” tall. Full sun, well- drained soil and average to minimal water. AAS winner in 1997. Essential for Thai and other ethnic dishes that call for a spicy Basil.
Very aromatic miniature bush Basil. Spicy, sweet Basil flavor. Small shiny leaves on highly branched stems. Super cute in pots, forms a natural topiary look. Can be grown in pots or used in garden beds. Height 8-12″. Very ornamental, makes a nice cut flower.
Italian large leaf-type. Bright green, glossy savoy leaves. Slow bolting with strong aroma and good flavor for pesto. Height 12″”. Very productive and makes a nice cut flower. More resilient than other Italian types.
A different species, Ocimum sanctum (or O. tenuiflorum). Originating from India. Some plants can live for several years under the right conditions and become woody shrubs. There are several varieties of Tulsi, the sweet scented “Kapoor” tulsi grows best in the Pacific Northwest.