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Garden Article, Feb. 15, 2020

Basil is many a cook’s favorite herb and there are a lot of varieties with different flavors to choose from.  Let’s start with Basil Genovese.

This Italian variety has extremely tender, fragrant, extra-large, dark green leaves and is superb for pesto. This is the classic Italian basil, and the crucial ingredient for pesto! Large, dark green leaves are tender, delicious, and aromatic. The leaves have a lovely anise scent and taste sweet, yet slightly peppery. The taste is pungent but leans toward a sweet, clove-like back end.  Genovese does beautifully in containers and is slow to bolt as long as you regularly pinch the blooms. Once it has bolted, use the flowers as garnish for salads, pasta, and drinks. Once it has bolted try cutting it a third to half way back and it will start producing more leaves.

If it’s smaller leaf basil you desire then plant Boxwood Basil. As its name suggests, a growing Boxwood basil plant looks much akin to boxwood. This compact, round, bushy basil looks fabulous as a fragrant edging around the garden, in containers, or even trimmed into topiaries. Boxwood basil grows between 8-14 inches wide and tall and has the same great flavor as Genovese.


Color is important in many dishes so if you need to brighten up basil flavored dish the use Red Freddy Sweet Basil.  Expect the same strong performance and traditional flavor as other Genovese-type Basils, but with the added attraction of deep red to maroon foliage. Plants are large-leaved with smooth texture, and they grow up to 2’. Mix this Basil in your container or herb garden plantings for an extra splash of rich color, and harvest it to complement your favorite dishes. A great combo is golden ‘Sunsugar’ Tomatoes and ‘Red Freddy’ Basil with your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

The 1998 AAS Edible Vegetable Winner was Basil Sweet Dani.  This greatly improved aromatic herb desirable for culinary and ornamental use has a strong lemon scent and is easy to grow.  The plant makes a very good potted or container plant and can be cut back or trimmed several times with good regrowth that will appear bushier.

If you are a fan of licorice or anise then Basil Thai Magic is the basil for you.   The mild, sweet leaves have a hint of anise or licorice and provide a wonderful flavor in culinary dishes. Thick, shiny, green leaves can grow up to 3″ long and the magenta flower clusters provide additional landscape interest.   Also known as ”Sweet Thai basil and Oriental basil”, that  flowers late allowing more time and use for the basil. It is used in Thai dishes and any dish that requires a sweet taste. It has a nice red flower and looks nice in the garden once the flowers have bloomed.



Wonderful non flowering basil that as really gained in popularity among gardeners is ‘Pesto Perpetuo’, non-flowering, columnar basil that features aromatic, lime green leaves variegated with thin white margins.  For ornamental purposes, the variegated foliage of this non-flowering annual makes this basil an extremely attractive foliage plant for garden areas and containers. The beauty and flavor, which is a basil flavor with a touch of lemon, will earn it a prominent place in your herb garden.  The non-flowering, columnar plants grow up to 48 inches tall, furnishing enough foliage for pesto by the pound!  Plus with substantial light, this tender perennial will be happy indoors during winter months.




Basil, Emerald Towers has a beautiful columnar habit ideal for any garden, patio pot, raised bed or small space. A well-branched, dark green variety with short internodes makes a beautiful, towering plant with huge harvest potential.  It flowers very, very late in the season, for huge harvests of sweet Genovese flavored leaves for fresh eating or chopped in salads and recipes.


This spring remember to try a couple different varieties of basil and the best place to find them would be at you local garden center and greenhouse.

Garden Tip: Basil loves warm weather, so  wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting out into the garden. Select a sunny location with good loose soil.  Be sure to mix Sustane Organic Fertilizer into the planting hole.  If growing in a planter use Premier Potting Soil for best results.

Dave Vargo is the owner of Arnold Feed & Garden Ctr (724-335-1821) and Kiski Plaza Garden Ctr. (724-845-8201) Visit their web site at www.kiskigardencenter.com Email questions to dvargokiski@comcast.net all products mentioned in this article are available at either garden center