Plant Profile Basil

Plant Profile Basil

Part of Ep. 1805 Basil and Landscape Lighting

Host Shelley Ryan profiles the herb basil with guest Diane Bober of Green Woman Herbs in Mineral Point. The focus will be culinary basil in its many sizes, shapes and colors.

Premiere date: Jul 21, 2010

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
Basil is a wonderful herb that comes in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Some are great in the kitchen, some are not, but today we're going to focus on the ones that are good to eat. I'm with Diane Bober of Green Woman Herbs in Mineral Point. And as I said, we're going to focus on the culinary varieties.

Diane Bober:
That's right.

Shelley Ryan:
Let's start with the classic.

Diane Bober:
This is a classic, it's a Genovese type basil, it's a sweet basil. And it has a balance of flavors that is just perfect in just about anything you want to use basil in.

Shelley Ryan:
Cooking or raw, fresh? Both ways?

Diane Bober:
Either way. Any way you want to use it. It can be used fresh in salads, it's great in sauces used in pesto.

Shelley Ryan:
Let's talk a little about keeping a plant like this happy. My experience is, it's a summer, outdoor plant. Give up on it as a houseplant in the winter.

Diane Bober:
Yeah, I agree with you there. I think it's really hard to grow in the house, but it does make a great plant in the summer. It loves the warmth, it loves moisture.

Shelley Ryan:
Don't put it out before the soil is warm or it just sits there and looks at you.

Diane Bober:
That's right, it'll turn black.

Shelley Ryan:
Yes, I've seen that!

Diane Bober:
And when you are planting a basil outside, you want to remember to pinch it back when you do plant it.

Shelley Ryan:
So when you see the flowers starting like here, you're pinching back.

Diane Bober:
Yes, once it does start to flower you want to pinch it way back, probably 2/3 of the way back.

Shelley Ryan:
That's where you've pinched it back already, quite a bit back.

Diane Bober:
Yes, and that way it will keep producing its leaves which is what you want.

Shelley Ryan:
That's what we're eating.

Diane Bober:
Yes.

Shelley Ryan:
You've got a completely different variety here. This is beautiful, what is this?

Diane Bober:
This is called "Pesto Perpetuo," and it's a hybrid. Yes, it is beautiful. And it's lovely, using it fresh in salads with tomatoes, it looks great. But it can also be used in cooking like your regular basil.

Shelley Ryan:
Now, this has an advantage over the regular basil. What is that?

Diane Bober:
It does. It does not flower.

Shelley Ryan:
Oh, so we don't have to pinch it back and we get leaf production all summer long.

Diane Bober:
Yes, you do.

Shelley Ryan:
Now, this one is dwarf in all ways. The size, the shape, even the leaves are miniature. Isn't that great? How would you use this?

Diane Bober:
This is best used fresh. You just pinch it off and put it in your salads.

Shelley Ryan:
Just snip off pieces of it. What's this called?

Diane Bober:
It's called "Spicy Globe" and it does have a spicy taste to it.

Shelley Ryan:
Okay. This one is also a dwarf, but in a different fashion. It is, it looks entirely different. It has a regular size leaf to it. And those leaves can be used just as you would any other sweet basil.

Shelley Ryan:
But it will stay this size. So these are all good in containers but this is really great. And this one is...?

Diane Bober:
That's called "Italian Cameo."

Shelley Ryan:
That's great, because you get the full-sized leaves, too. And this one?

Diane Bober:
This one is a "Lettuce Leaf" basil.

Shelley Ryan:
Oh, nice.

Diane Bober:
You'll find that the leaves vary. Some of them are very smooth. This one is a very puckered leaf. The thing about these basils is they have a sweet, mild flavor, so they're great used fresh like as a lettuce on a sandwich.

Shelley Ryan:
Oh, really?

Diane Bober:
Used as a wrap.

Shelley Ryan:
Using the leaves themselves to wrap around something else.

Diane Bober:
That's right.

Shelley Ryan:
Excellent idea, very unusual idea, too. Then you've got one over here. I've never seen this one before. The leaves are fantastic.

Diane Bober:
Yeah. That is called "Serrata" and it does have the serrated leaf on it. Very decorative, and also very flavorful.

Shelley Ryan:
So we could use it just like the classic Italian, but put it somewhere where you can enjoy looking at it.

Diane Bober:
Right.

Shelley Ryan:
Now we get into some of the highly decorative. Look at this one. This purple is beautiful.

Diane Bober:
Yes, I love to have purple basils in the garden. They're just beautiful next to any other plant that you have. And they're also used just like a regular basil.

Shelley Ryan:
Similar flavors?

Diane Bober:
Yes, if you were just going to use one basil, I would not use this for cooking, but it can be used. And it's probably best used fresh.

Shelley Ryan:
So in salads or something like that. And what is this one called?

Diane Bober:
This one is called "Purple Delight."

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, and you've got one of the uses that you like for the purple basil.

Diane Bober:
It makes a gorgeous vinegar.

Shelley Ryan:
So this is a basil vinegar. And you'll share that recipe with us?

Diane Bober:
Sure.

Shelley Ryan:
Then the last two are two of the more unusual. Very pretty. This one is a cinnamon basil?

Diane Bober:
That's right.

Shelley Ryan:
And how do you? I mean, it's gorgeous but I think people aren't always sure how to use this.

Diane Bober:
It is quite unusual, but it does work well in several things. One recipe I like is steeping it with black tea, and then you chill it and put in orange slices, and it makes a great drink.

Shelley Ryan:
Cinnamon flavor to it.

Diane Bober:
I do have another recipe for cinnamon basil ice cream.

Shelley Ryan:
Using this? Wow, okay, that would be unusual.

Diane Bober:
Yes.
Shelley Ryan:
And actually those flowers look so beautiful I think you could use it in flower arrangements, too.

Diane Bober:
They're gorgeous in flower arrangements.

Shelley Ryan:
Very unusual. And then, the lemon basil.

Diane Bober:
Yes, the lemon basil can be used. It works great with fruit salads. Another way that I like to use it is in jellies.

Shelley Ryan:
Oh, okay.

Diane Bober:
If you use a base of apple juice and then steep that with the lemon basil, you get a nice flavor with that.

Shelley Ryan:
So both the cinnamon and lemon are better in fresh, rather than cooked dishes.

Diane Bober:
I would say so, although you can use the lemon basil in a cooked dish. You want to remember when you are adding basil to add it at the end of the cooking process.

Shelley Ryan:
Good point. So regardless, any basil, put it in at the end or it's going to lose its flavor. Okay, great tips, thank you, Diane.

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