Ocimum Basilicum

Sweet Basil

Ocimum basilicum

Sweet basil has a unique taste that is closely related to its spicy sweet fragrance. Of all the herbs discussed here it probably comes closest to the flavour of true anise. It is an annual that grows quickly and easily, and its luscious, bright green leaves and white flowers should be nipped off to keep the bush compact and prevent the plant going to seed. (If you grow a few plants then do leave the flowers on one or two because the bees love them.) Sweet basil plants do best in well-composted, freedraining soil in a position that receives full sun or morning sun, and should be watered regularly. To impart the fragrance to food, add the leaves only at the end of cooking. They should not be bruised except when making pesto (which requires pounding the leaves together with garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese). Basil has a special affinity with tomatoes and can be used in any tomato sauce, soup, Mediterranean vegetable dish or pasta, as well as in salads, sandwiches, chicken stuffing and pizza.

The Gardener