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Connecticut Garden Journal: ‘Genovese’ is one variety in a world of basil colors and flavors

Ripe leaves of violet basil close-up. An herb bunch of aromatic basilic is an ingredient for pesto. Black low key still life. texture background organic nature plants
Yuliia Kokosha
'Purple' basil has deep colored leaves and a strong, clove-like flavor. You can make pesto with purple basil, just as you would with 'Genovese' basil.

As the weather warms, I'm starting to think about basil. It's a bit early to plant basil, but it is a good time to shop for plants and seeds of some of the more unusual basil varieties.

While we all know and love 'Genovese' basil, there are many other flavors to basil. One of our favorites is 'Thai' basil. The thicker leaves hold up well at high heat in Asian recipes and it has a sweet, anise-like flavor. The plant has attractive purple leaf veins and flowers, too. A cross between 'Genovese' and 'Thai' basil is 'Christmas' basil. This plant has the ornamental qualities of 'Thai' basil with a holiday scent of pine and fruity spices. 'Lemon' basil and 'Lime' basil have smaller leaves with a strong citrus smell. 'Holy' basil is also known as Tulsi. It's used in Indian cooking and medicines. It has a strong, spicy taste.

For color in the basil patch, 'Cardinal' basil hales from Israel and has showy, large, red flowers. 'Dark Opal' and 'Purple' basil have deeper colored leaves with a strong, clove-like flavor.

All basils grow best in full sun on well-drained, compost amended soil or in containers. Wait until the soil really warms, maybe until Memorial Day, to plant these exotic basils. There's no rush because basil loves hot weather. Keep the plants well watered. Unless you're growing basil for the ornamental flowers, snip off the blooms when they form to send more energy into leaf production. To harvest, strip off branches of basil leaves back to the main trunk or stem. This encourages more new branch growth with bigger leaves.

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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