Basil is such a large group of species and cultivars that we have decide to place them all under one category because they all have similar uses and growth requirements, with a few exceptions.
Basil comes in green and red leaf varieties, annual and perennial varieties as well as straight and curled leaf varieties. The best ones used for cooking would be the well-known sweet basil, dark opal basil with its maroon red leaves and our personal favourite, the perennial Greek basil which has the same flavour as sweet basil but with the added benefit of being n perennial plant that rarely flowers.
Basil needs no introduction into the realm of the kitchen with its fresh taste adding flavour to pizza sauce, pastas, soups, egg and cheese dishes, tomato dishes and off course PESTO! This lovely sauce can be added to all sorts of dishes to give it a signature flavour and entire festivals is devoted to this sauce. Besides its presence in the kitchen basil is also a remarkable detoxifier, migraine remedy, and has been used to treat mouth infections and peptic ulcers. Whenever you have basil to spare, you can make a strong tea from the leaves and pour it down ant holes as they absolutely hate the smell of basil. Do you struggle to keep flies at bay? Rub some basil on your windowsills to deter those pesky little flies.
Most basils are annual plants meaning that they only last one season and then go to seed. There are quite a few perennial basil varieties available, some of which flower and others that donâ€™t. All basil species need full sun with a well composted fertile soil. They are not fond of pots and prefer to be planted in the garden especially if you intend to use a lot of it and need a strong producing plant. The sweet and dark opal varieties need at least a twice weekly watering (see growing tips) and ideally a layer of organic mulch to keep the roots cool and moist, this will also delay them going to flower early. The perennial varieties need a mild pruning two to three times per year but never cut then too low as this may kill the plant. The flowering perennial basils are excellent bee feeding plants that are proving very helpful in the agricultural section. (see African Blue Basil)