Basil Instincts


Every year, plant experts introduce more varieties of basil, an immensely popular herb.

The following plants will be available at the Green Scene from the Friends of the Fullerton Arboretum Potters and the California Organic Gardening Club. Seeds for these herbs also can be purchased through some nurseries and mail-order companies.

* Sweet Italian basil: The standard basil used for pesto and on pizza. Unlike other basils, it doesn’t have a strong, licorice-flavored aftertaste but is very sweet.

* Napoletano: Originally from southern Italy, this has large round, crinkled leaves of light green. It is sweet and mellow, good eaten raw in salads or mixed with other herbs such as parsley.


* Genova (Genovese): Unlike basils that lose their flavor when cooked or paired with tomatoes, this basil’s strong, perfumey flavor always comes through.

* Fino Verde: Resembling a mini shrub, this small basil grows to about 1 foot with 1-inch leaves growing in clusters. It is the basil most often used for cooking in Italy, because its strong flavor holds up well in cooking. It’s also good fresh.

* Red Ruben: A deep purple basil with egg-shaped leaves. The fragrant foliage has a pungent flavor and is good in pasta, salads and herbal vinegars. This type is much more uniform in color than other purple-foliaged basils, which tend to streak or revert to green.

* Greek mini: This mild petite basil does well in pots or window boxes. It grows to 9 inches and has tiny, bright green leaves that are extremely fragrant. This mini type grows well indoors and is slow to send up flower stalks.

* Cinnamon: This scented basil has shiny green leaves that smell and taste like cinnamon. Allowed to flower, the plant will become covered with aromatic pink flowers. This basil is good mixed with fresh or baked fruit and also is used to make potpourri.

* Anise: The slightly serrated leaves are sweet and tasty and can be used in almost any dish. It also makes an attractive landscape plant with green leaves, purple stems and rose-colored flowers.


* Broadleaf: This large-leaved variety has a mild flavor good for white sauces. It makes a good pesto and complements chicken well.

* Siam Queen Thai: An improved cultivar of Thai basil, used in many Thai and Cambodian dishes. It is a spicy, sweet basil with a clove-mint-licorice scent and taste. The leaves are large, reaching three to four inches long by 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide.

* Thai lemon: This basil has a lemony scent and taste that goes well with rice, fish and poultry and in salads and marinades. Also good for potpourri.

* Mrs. Burn’s lemon: This heirloom was recently reintroduced. It has a bigger leaf than regular lemon basil, and the plants are more vigorous. The leaves have a strong lemon scent with overtones of spice and mint.

For basil seeds by mail, contact Shepherd’s Garden Seeds at (860) 482-3638 or Park Seed at (800) 845-3369.