Bumper Crop of Basil

Trisha Shirey, Director of Flora & Fauna - 22nd July 2013

This summer we have a bumper crop of basil – 29 different varieties! That’s one for each year that I have been here at the spa. I didn’t plan it that way, that’s just what I found this year. Some of our old favorites are back, like Mrs. Burn’s lemon basil.

Last year this basil was so popular that I planted an entire row of Key Lime Basil. So there is plenty for guests, staff and the kitchen. I love the flavor in lemonade, with tomatoes and even in watermelon margaritas!

A new variety this year is New Guinea basil. I love the foliage and flowers but I’m not crazy about the flavor.

This Pesto Perpetuo is an all time favorite. The variegated leaves are stunning, it has a smaller size and columnar shape that makes it a great container plant and the flavor is sublime. It seldoms blooms so there’s no constant trimming required. Wonderful for pesto, marinara, soups and sauces.

Nufar basil is a great choice for gardeners who have had issues with fungal diseases in their basil crops. It has amazing disease resistance, large leaves and wonderful flavor. A marvelous choice for a Caprese salad!

Our chefs love Opal Bush Basil. It has small, delicate looking leaves and a subtle, almost fruity flavor. Chef Stephane did a marvelous blackberry sauce with this basil for pork loin. It is a small but very attractive plant.

One of the prettiest basils is this ruffled Serata. Don’t let its frilly look fool you – it packs a flavorful punch too!

And this one is just strange. It’s Bell Pepper Basil and it smells and tastes like bell peppers and basil combined. This same plant has come back each spring for three years after freezing to the ground so it is the only perennial basil I have ever seen.

All of the basil is labeled, so feel free to pinch and taste each type. You are also welcome to take some home to try in your favorite recipes. I hope to see you soon in our gardens!

BTW – Many of you have been asking me when I am going to get around to writing a gardening book. I am doing just that – The Edible Gardening Handbook for the Southwest. It will be published by Timber Press and will be available January 2015. And of course we will have it at LASR and I will be happy to sign a copy for you!