This herb is known around the world for its wonderful fragrance and flavor. The key ingredient in classic Italian pesto, Sweet Basil has big leaves that are fast and easy to grow so that you can make your own pesto to freeze for year-round use. It loves hot weather, so always wait until all danger of frost is past before planting in the garden in the spring, then harvest before the weather starts to cool down in fall. Great for containers, but be sure to keep watered. If you were to grow only one herb, this should probably be it. Dried basil just doesn’t have the aromatic quality of the fresh leaves, which are often added at the last minute to many Asian dishes.
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an aromatic, flavorful herb that can be a versatile addition to your menu plan. Traditionally used in Mediterranean pesto and pesto-based recipes, basil is also part of several Asian cuisines and enhances the flavor of many different dishes. Even beginning gardeners can successfully grow sweet basil in a home garden or as a potted plant indoors or outside.
The sweet basil plant probably originated in Asia and Africa and may have been brought to Europe in ancient times by Alexander the Great. Early settlers carried the plant and its seeds to America in the 1600s. Common basil grows throughout the U.S. as a bushy annual plant that reaches a height of 1 to 2 feet, although there are varieties with different habits. The plant has large, shiny green leaves and produces floral spikes covered with tiny white flowers. The powerful aroma of the basil plant is produced by volatile oils found throughout its stems and leaves.