Savoring basil - Carolina Country

Savoring basil

Sweet basil is a darling of the herb garden, treasured for its attractive, aromatic leaves and usefulness in the kitchen. It is easy to grow from seed or transplants. Just give basil plenty of sun and a moderate amount of water. Plant in well-drained soil and don't fuss with fertilizing. As plants grow, pinch out the tops to promote bushier growth and remove flowers to keep the crop of leaves productive. Sweet basil is the old standby used to flavor tomato sauces and pesto, but dozens of basils are available. Depending on the variety, basil may deliver the fragrance and taste of anise, licorice or clove. Cinnamon basil and lime basil offer a subtle twist on the traditional flavor. All basils are edible, but a few are at their best as ornamentals (basils with small, rough leaves or woody stems aren't ideal for cooking). Basil flowers are white, pink, lavender or purple, depending on the variety. Particularly attractive is 'Purple Ruffles', which has frilly, purple leaves. Basil averages 2 feet tall, but several dwarf varieties are offered, including 'Italian Cameo' and 'Windowbox' (each 6–8 inches tall). Sow basil seeds throughout the season for successional crops. Basil seedlings will often volunteer.

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