Herbs are definitely increasing in popularity and probably one of the all-time favourites to grow is basil. This year we have a couple of new varieties to help fill the demand. The first is called ‘Pesto Perpetuo’, a Genovese type. Not only does it make delicious pesto but it looks beautiful. The green and white variegated leaves are very striking. It looks great in a pot, in the garden or as a garnish on your plate.
It grows in a compact columnar shape up to 125cm tall. That’s impressive! Pesto Perpetuo doesn’t produce flowers, so all its energy goes into making leaves. Basil is an annual and likes lots of sun and warmth. Grow basil in a pot inside, on a sunny window sill until the risk of frost has passed. To extend its life, bring it back inside before the first frost and enjoy it a little bit longer.
Wild Red Basil is also very ornamental in both the garden and your salad. The leaves are deep green and red with contrasting dark pink blooms. This grows to a height of 35 cm. Remember to prune your basil several times throughout the season to encourage new growth. Pinch out the flowers, otherwise they will form seed heads and slow the vegetative growth down.
We will be growing these two types of basils in a new fibre pot.
This ‘green’ pot can be directly planted into the soil, thus reducing transplant shock and reducing the landfill of plastic.
Basil is delicious in sauces and salads.
A classic use for basil is pesto. Freezing is the best way to save your basil for later, like when it’s thirty below and you crave a little bit of summer!
Simply grind the basil leaves with a little olive oil and freeze ‘dollops’ of it on a cookie sheet. Put into bags once frozen and take it out as needed.
Jean Atkinson is a horticulturist with Richbar Golf and Garden and a regular Observer columnist.