What Kind of Basil Should You Plant?
There are many features to consider when choosing basil for your garden. First is flavor, as some basil varieties loan themselves best to pesto, classic Italian or tomato dishes, and others to Asian cuisine. Also keep in mind plant habit (or shape) – from small globes to shrubby to tall, columned forms. Finally, there are ornamental features, such as purple or variegated foliage, or attractive reddish-purple flowering spikes.
For ornamental use:
- Spicy Globe, Pistou, Aristotle and Minette each offer a dwarf-mounding habit with good flavor.
- Cardinal, Thai and Licorice basil feature attractive reddish-purple flowering spikes.
- Purple Ruffles and Pesto Perpetuo provide exciting foliage.
For culinary use:
- We commonly associate basil with the classic Italian flavor, but sadly, the Genovese types are very susceptible to mildew. Try Amazel™ Basil or the small globe types, which have surprisingly good flavor though can sometimes be spicier.
- Thai types have a flavor profile with more licorice or anise. Look for Cardinal, Licorice and classic Thai basil.
- Lemon and lime basils are ones I prefer to use on chicken or fish, and not for tomato recipes.
Beware: Some basil varieties are pretty but not tasty! These may be used for medicinal teas. African Blue is a pretty garden plant that’s perfect for pollinators such as bees. I find the camphor flavor too strong to be pleasant, but others seem to like it.