what's the deal with basil?

digit(ID/WA)July 31, 2008

It's that time of the year . . . So, what's the deal with basil?

I think I'm getting a handle on it after many years of growing the stuff. I love the fragrance - sprigs of Thai basil with bean sprouts in a bowl of beef & noodle soup, the dominant spice for pasta sauce, etc.

Recently, I tried to come to some vague understanding on the Italian varieties. Sweet basil? Are all Italian varieties "sweet" and suitable for pesto?

I commented the other day that basil is often difficult to get started in the Spring because of disease problems. Noticed Bonnie (HighAlt) has Lettuce Leaf. That's the one I have had the most trouble with - - wonderful basil but problematic.


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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Well, Steve, I think a better subject title might have been "Hello, is there anybody out there?" LOL!

Maybe the resident pesto expert, David, will be able to answer your question.

I was just going to add an observation I've made this year. It seems that the more narrow the leaf, the quicker the variety tries to bolt. The Lemon has very narrow leaves, and has been trying to bolt since very early on. The Cinnamon has a medium width leaf and was the next to start to try and flower, but the Sweet and Lettuce Leaf varieties with the larger leaves, don't seem to be near as intent on setting seed. Anyone else have this experience?

I'm also not sure what to use the Cinnamon for. I put it in the pesto, just because I had more of it than the other kinds, and I think it is a very ornamental plant with its purplish leaves and purple flower heads, but what types of dishes is it best in? The lemon seems to be a natural for seafood dishes, and the other two are perfect in tomato based sauces. I'm also wondering if there is a type of basil that could serve as a cilantro substitute?

Sorry I'm not much help, Digit.

Bonnie (who just finished off my first batch of pesto seasoned pasta for lunch today!)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 3:51PM
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I am at that stage of life where I've realized there is far more to know about basil than I could possibly ever even begin to master. I've tried all those various flavors, the mint, cinnamon, lemon, chocolate, vanilla, rocky road, pistachio, and so on. Aside from the novelty of it, "wow, it does taste like cinnamon!! I dunno what to use it for.

I grow the one from Territorial, Swiss Sunset, now because it - lasts all summer, will wilt down to the ground and come back up with watering, tastes great, and works well in the greenhouse, garden, western side of the house, and so on.

However, I was sorely tempted by some of the other basil offerings from Territorial. Next year, maybe. Probably. They have some big leaf ones, which would make some sense, if they taste good, given that the Swiss Sunset has 1" leaves, and you really need a bunch for pesto.

Also, at the farmers market, a purple, small leaf basil, no matter how Dy-no-mite, won't sell. At least here.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 7:51PM
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jnfr(z5b CO)

I have started basil from seed, but it needs really warm temps both day and night to sprout. The year I grew from seed I had wonderful basil and we put aside a lot of pesto for the winter.

Like all thin-leaved plants, I have to keep it well watered. We're northwest of Denver and the winds blow hot and dry through my yard most of the summer, so watering is crucial. (I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, but watering is really my main issue. Even more than bindweed :) )

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 10:23PM
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dafygardennut(5b-ish, CO)

I would use the Cinnamon, Lemon and Lime basils in Asian dishes (think of Chinese 5 Spice - one of the spices is cinnamon). Large leaf or lettuce leaf basils (like the Genovese) are best in Italian. I use basil in lots of different things, including salsa and fruit salads.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 7:09PM
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Thanks for broadening my understanding, Everyone!

Could it be that Asian basils are nonsweets while Italian basils are sweets? It would be simple if true. And, the narrowness of the leaves could be some sort of indication.

Life is too complex for such generalities, I'm sure.


    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 9:24PM
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I don't remember where I got this recipe from, but I wish I had enough basil to make it again!

Cinnamon Basil Cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter at room temp
3/4 sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped fresh cinnamon basil
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

1. Sift first 4 ingredients together
2. In another bowl cream the butter with the sugar; beat in the egg; then stir in the remaining ingredients
3. Wrap dough in plastic and chill 1 hour.

to cook:
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Shape the dough into 1 inch balls & roll in the topping mix
3. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets; flatten slightly
4. Bake 10 - 12 mins until golden.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 5:53PM
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ooooooh, that's my kind of basil use, Lazyi!

I don't think you'd need to have an extra special basil variety but I could be wrong. I see that Park has a cinnamon basil but it looks a lot like the Thai basil in my garden.

Move over snickerdoodles!

Steve's digits

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 9:05PM
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