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Connecticut Garden Journal: The many flavors of basil and how to grow 'the king of herbs'

Ali Majdfar
/
Moment RF / Getty Images
While many of us of Italian descent think of basil as the Genovese, large leafed type, there are many more varieties and tastes of this herb.

The plant known as the “king of the herbs” hales from India and has been cultivated for more than 5000 years. It's in the mint family and now is grown around the globe. Yes, it's basil.

While many of us of Italian descent think of basil as the Genovese, large leafed type, there are many more varieties and tastes of this herb. ‘Sweet Dani’ is a lemon flavored variety. There’s also a ‘Lime’ flavored basil. ‘Siam Queen’ is a good anise-flavored Thai basil variety. To prevent disease problems, 'Prospera' is a new Genovese variety that is fusarium wilt and downy mildew resistant.

Growing basil is easy, if you remember a few qualities of this plant. Basil doesn't like it cold. Now that the soil and air has warmed consistently, it's a good time to buy some transplants of basil or sow some seeds. Also, basil produces best if you keep harvesting it. When picking basil leaves, remove whole stems, versus just individual leaves. This will encourage the plant to keep making large leaves that are easiest for picking and using in the kitchen.

Grow basil in full sun, on well-drained, fertile soil. Basil likes some compost when planted to keep it growing strong. Keep the plants well watered and mulched to keep weeds away.

While it's best to pinch off the flowers as they form to encourage more leaf growth, plant extra basil plants and let those go to flower. Basil is an excellent plant to attract bees, pollinators, and butterflies to your garden. Plus, some varieties, such as Thai basil, have colorful, purple flower stems and blossoms.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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