Next time you're cooking up a dish to impress, try one of these other exciting varieties. Each has a unique colour, flavour and fragrance - just as for them at your local nursery and plant up!
You can find over ten varieties of basil in Australia but the two most popular varieties are Sweet and Thai.
- Sweet Basil - most commonly used basil. Sweet aromatic flavour. Typically used in Italian cuisine.
- Thai Basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora) - has a distinct liquorice aroma and narrower leaves. It is most commonly used in Thai soups and dishes.
- Bush Basil - grows in a neat compact mound. It's tiny leaves pack a peppery punch - great for tomato dishes, sauces and pesto.
- Lime Basil - features zesty lime notes and goes well in soups, salads and fish dishes.
- Dark Opal Basil - features gorgeous purple foliage and adds milk peppery notes to soups, salads and sauces.
- Lemon Basil - has a strong lemon scent and is a favourite in Asian-style soups, curries and stir-fries.
- Cinnamon Basil - features pretty, lavender-pink flowers and violet stems. Its spicy cinnamon flavours can be used to enhance all kinds of desserts, fruits, salads and teas.
How to grow basil
The best growing conditions for basil are warm climates, basil doesn’t fare well in cold, damp weather and frosts. Fun fact: butterflies love basil so don’t be surprised if you see them fluttering near your basil bush.
Wondering how much sun basil needs? Basil needs a spot with full sun and a little afternoon shade in hot climates but you can also grow basil in pots indoors, window sills are the perfect spot. As basil stems aren’t very strong it doesn’t fare well in windy conditions so it is best to keep it protected.
Plant in well-drained soil, enriched with compost. Use a good-quality potting mix if planting in a pot.
You need to water in well when planting. Once established, water regularly, but check that the soil drains freely, as these plants don't like wet feet. During heatwaves, water often as the thin leaves can wilt in the hot sun.
Feed basil regularly with a water-soluble nitrogen fertiliser.
To prolong the life of your plants, harvest leaves when the stems have become woody and pinch out flowers to encourage leaf growth. Frost can kill plants, so harvest well beforehand.
You can grow basil relatively easily from cuttings. Simply take a few cuttings and place in a glass of water in a sunny spot until roots develop.
How to plant
Planting basil is relatively easy, you can grow basil from seeds which you can buy from Bunnings or your local hardware or from a small shrub, even the ones you buy in coles and Woolworths will work.
Basil needs moist, well-drained soil. If you have some compost or fertiliser handy add some to the soil to give your basil a boost. If you are growing basil in a pot remember to turn your pot every couple of weeks for even growth.
How to harvest
The more basil you eat the more basil you’ll grow as picking leaves encourages new growth. Picking basil isn’t an art, simply pick leaves as you need them by pressing your nail against your thumb to avoid bruising. If your basil starts to flower, simply pinch the flowers off the top to keep your basil bushy and not too tall.
Care & Troubleshooting
Struggling to keep your basil alive? Here’s a couple of common troubleshooting problems to help keep your plant from dying.
Not sure how to prune basil? Simply picking leaves from the top of the plant should be enough to keep your basil under control. If you notice any dead leaves snip them off but aside from that it needs little attention.
The best companion plants for basil are tomatoes, eggplants, beans and oregano.