Rhapsody in basil

I’ve been meaning to trumpet about our basils almost since the day we planted them. So without further ado: I love basil (Ocimum basilicum)! Lavender is still the aromatic herb I would dress myself in head to toe if I could but there’s something totally blissful about being elbow deep in basil – it’s a comfort scent that I could just eat up. How convenient then that it’s food!

And it’s not just for the herb or vegetable garden anymore. This year, thanks to Gail making excellent seed catalog choices, we have some beauties and all around winners that we think look great in the mixed garden. She chose ‘Minette‘ and ‘Marseille‘ from Park’s; ‘Boxwood‘ from Burpee; and ‘Pistou‘ and ‘Queenette‘ from Johnny’s. They all have diminutive leaves and all but ‘Queenette’ made orbtacular blobs almost immediately after planting. ‘Queenette’ distinguished itself with an immediate array of decorative purple flower spikes and a refusal to bolt. It resembles a miniature and yellow-greener version of our old standby favorite ‘African Blue’ (which always surprises visitors when they learn that it’s not some kind of Salvia.) ‘Pistou’ has been the first to show signs of exhaustion – perhaps with a set of tiny hedge shears and a flair for topiary we could have coaxed a longer at-its-best season. The bees are sure enjoying the flowers though.

Ocimum basilicum ‘Marseille’‘African Blue’ BasilOcimum basilicum ‘Minette’Ocimum basilicum ‘Boxwood’Ocimum basilicum ‘Pistou’ mid July, before it boltedOcimum basilicum ‘Queenette’Ocimum basilicum ‘Pistou’ going for the bolt

I took my taste test too late in the season to tell the true tale of the flavors and not being a hardcore foodie, I probably couldn’t be very accurate in my descriptions anyway. – To me they taste a lot like … basil …! ‘Queenette’ definitely has a licorice edge though and ‘Minette’ is kinda minty. They all make the most adorable garnish but it might take a few entire plants to make enough pesto (or as the French have it, pistou) to go around. Speaking of pistou, Lyn (a Rockette) brought in a recipe for Soupe au Pistou from “Cuisine of the Sun” by Mireille Johnston. Here is a very abridged version:

1 lb. White beans

a lot of garden harvest vegetables – anything goes this time of year although tomatoes are not on Mme. Johnston’s list.

1/2 cup lean salt pork

2 quarts water

bay leaves, sage, salt ‘n’ pepper

Do your usual vegetable soup making thing and then right before you serve it, add the pesto:

3 cups fresh basil

4-6 garlic cloves

1/2 to 1 cup Swiss, Parmesan, or Romano cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

pinch of coarse salt


But of course, nothing goes with basil like a fresh from the garden tomato. I’ll wager that in Super Stop & Shop, you will never find a tomato that would rather be a teapot.

I’m a little teapot! (get your mind out of the gutter)

Gardeners have all the fun! (Sorry, Julie. I know it’s rude but you can’t hand me a freak and not expect me to show it off!)

Have you grown any basils you think are spectacular to either look at or eat? Do you have any good recipes to share? Please link back if you decide to make a pesto post!