Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spicy Globe Basil

Fresh basil is truly the scent of summer! I love to run my fingers over the plants as I stroll through the garden, or pick a sprig just to inhale the intense aroma.

Although I grow about six types of basil at any one time (a topic for a future post!), my favourite is Spicy Globe Basil. I first discovered it about 10 years ago at a local greenhouse, and it instantly became one of the yearly 'must-have's' in our garden.

The plant itself is very compact. In fact, with its rounded shape and small leaves (they're only about 1/2 to 3/4-inch long), it looks like a miniature boxwood shrub. Because of its diminutive size (about 10 by 10-inches), Spicy Globe Basil makes a great potted plant for the patio or windowsill, but I also like to use it as an edging for garden beds. It adds a touch of formality to the organized chaos of our kitchen garden. You can also tuck a few plants amongst your perennials if you're short on space!

Typically, Spicy Globe Basil is very slow to bolt (go to flower), but when flowers do develop in late summer, just trim them off as they appear so that quality of the leaves doesn't begin to diminish.

If you love pairing tomatoes and fresh basil, you'll find that Spicy Globe Basil is the perfect compliment to sun-ripened tomatoes. I also use it for pesto and it is the main ingredient in my favourite pasta - chop generous handfuls of basil, tossing it in a large pan with some olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and a few chilies. Sautee for a few minutes and then add some cooked spaghetti and copious amounts of fresh grated parmesan.. sooooo good!

Basil is a tender annual and in Northern climates needs to be started indoors or purchased as transplants. Grow it in a spot with plenty of sunshine and well-drained soil. Slugs may be an annoying garden pest, but they do have good taste. They tend to attack my basil before anything else, so keep a look out for these slimy mollusks if they tend to be a problem in your area.

Happy Gardening!

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