Written by Sara Dixon – Herb Society Member…
Basil is a very versatile herb. Largely because there are over 160 varieties – that is a very large range of flavours! I hope that never again will you say ‘I want/grow Basil’. From now on surely you must mention the particular flavour of Basil as well! Show that you know your cookery stuff…
It is worth, I think, knowing that any of the Basils, if worn about your person, will bring you wealth… And if you leave any Basil outside your door, it signifies that you are ready to receive your lover! It also apparently grows best where it is sworn at regularly. Not that I have tried that one, or indeed any of the statements I have just made!
The size and shape varies considerably. From the teeny tiny Finissimo Basil. To the Mammoth Basil in which you can wrap contents, sushi-style. And the flavours too – from the Sweet Basil, to the Thai Basil and Cinnamon Basil (both spicy), to the Lemon Basil (my favourite). So many from which to choose.
Easy to grow from seed, they are from the Far East so they will not like frost. In the UK we tend to see them as Summer Annuals but often they will be happy on a window sill indoors all year round. They will let you know when they need watering – they droop at the slightest hint of dryness! Don’t water them in dribs and drabs – like other herbs, that encourages the roots upwards into the dry air which is not good. Give them a good soaking and then leave them until they look like they might be ready for another droop.
If you are not the most confident of cooks, Basil is your friend. Buy a ready made pizza, add more of your choice of Basil to the top. If you have shop bought mayonnaise, try adding Lemon Basil to the mix.
If you feel like branching out on your prowess, how about combining Parmesan, Pine Nuts (or frankly any nuts that you have), Garlic, and your choice of oil. Then add your choice of Basil.
Fancy grilling on the BBQ? Take the ubiquitous courgette (oh yes, oh so many courgettes…) and slice them, add cheese to the top surface, grill for a while until the cheese bubbles, then sprinkle your choice of Basil on top – the common or garden Sweet Basil is nice for this.
Still got Basil in the Autumn? Well, if it is the Cinnamon flavoured one, just add it to rice puddings or fruit pies. Or add it to Coriander (which is an Autumn/Spring herb, not really a Summer one as it bolts so easily), apple sauce, and some pork. Add it once the rest of the ingredients have been cooked.
So – a versatile herb in every way. And remember, it isn’t ‘just’ ‘Basil’… A superfluity of flavours of Basils await you!