Since there are over 40 varieties of basil and all of them are well-suited for organic gardening, you will decide which ones you want to try. For making pesto and for Italian cooking, Genovese and Italian Large Leaf basil varieties are hard to beat. Thai basil varieties are sweeter than Italian varieties and have a cinnamon and clove flavor to them. Other "specialty" basils come in purple or variegated colors or in fruity or citrus scents.
Basil can be direct seeded or transplanted into your garden. Basil seedlings are easy to grow organically as long as you have a warm place to keep them. Basil doesn't have too many insect pests. The most notable disease a problem that afflicts basil, typically while the plants are still seedlings, is Fusarium wilt, a fungal disease. The easiest way to fight fusarium wilt by organic methods is to buy fusarium resistant varieties of basil. These are available from Johnny's Selected Seeds.
There are several compact varieties that only reach 8 to 12 inches tall but have the same excellent flavor as their taller cousins. Your organic container garden is also a great place to grow basil.
Your basil is ready to harvest when you can pluck off several whorls of leaves and there are still enough leaves on the plant for it to recover. Always harvest your basil when it is sunny out and the plants are not covered with dew or moisture because if there is water on the leaves, they will turn black after you pick them. Basil leaves bruise very easily and should always be harvested by plucking a whorl of leaves off by their stem, not by pulling individual leaves off of the plant. Discard any seed heads that become mixed in with your harvest. The leaves are the tasty, edible part of this plant.
Since it is fast growing, decorative and so easy to grow and use, basil should definitely have a place in your organic garden!
Great Basil Varieties for Organic Gardens
Delicious Basil Pesto
Pesto Sauce Recipe(serves 4)
1. Peel and mince garlic
2. If desired, toast nuts in skillet over medium heat until golden.
3. Place all ingredients except cheese in work bowl of food processor; process until smooth. Scrape sides of bowl as necessary to ensure even mixing.
4. Transfer mixture to small bowl. Add cheese and salt to taste.
Pesto can be covered with plastic wrap or a thin film of oil (will keep the top of the pesto sauce from turning dark) and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Alternatively, pesto can be frozen into single-serving cubes using ice cube trays. After freezing, remove from tray and store in air tight container for up to 3 months.