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Basil: Wonder Herb!

Top 10 most popular basil varieties. See how to grow this herb from seeds or purchase plants. Enjoy the freshness of the leaves!

Originally from tropical Asia, basil punches way above its weight as far as culinary flavour is concerned. Its an absolute winner when it comes to fantastic taste! With hints of nutmeg, cloves and anise, basil pairs wonderfully with lemon, garlic and tomatoes.

To truly appreciate this herb, forget the pouches of tired, dried up leaves you find in the supermarket. If you want to understand what all the fuss is about, you have to pick fresh leaves from your own plants!

Plant varieties

There are more than 150 varieties of basil plants in the world. Below, we've listed our top 10.

Great Green Basil

Plant reaches approximately 30 cm high. Silky green, paired oval leaves. Best-known variety.

Fine Leaved Basil

Small, smooth, slender leaves, bright green. Slightly spicy aroma.

Thai Basil

Pointed green leaves, purple stems and flowers. Very spicy tasting with notes of anise and tarragon. Excellent for adding flavour to stir-fries, soups and Asian salads.

Purple Basil

Purplish leaves and stems, pale pink flowers. Bushy-looking variety. Mild, peppery flavour with a hint of ginger.

Lettuce Leaf Basil

Very large, soft-green, blistered leaves. Slightly anise-like flavour.

Lemon Basil

Small pointed leaves. Light green, almost yellow. Lemony taste. Ideal in soups, sauces, infusions... and cocktails (basil mojitos!)

Monstrous Mammoth Basil

Huge, light green leaves. Largest variety of basil. Strong perfume. Perfect for pesto.

Cinnamon Basil

Intense green leaves, purplish stems and lavender-coloured flowers. Strong cinnamon flavour. Perfect in herbal teas or to elevate desserts.

Note: cinnamon basil repels mosquitos, flies and aphids!

Licorice Basil

Unusual variety with an interesting liquorice flavour. Use for desserts: chop a few leaves and sprinkle over fruit salads, ice cream, jams and jellies.

Peruvian Basil

Subtle mix of flavours with hints of mint, oregano and camphor. Use in sauces and infusions.

Choose your plants

You have two options: you can either buy your basil plants or start them from seed. Both are possible. The purpose is to harvest and enjoy your own basil!

Purchase plants

If your garden centre has the variety you want and you'd rather skip the seeding stage, simply buy your plants. Choose young plants that seem healthiest: strong stems and robust foliage with good colour.

Grow from seed

If you want to grow organic or if your garden centre doesn't carry the unusual seed variety you're looking for, you should start your plants from seed. If you plan on growing your plants entirely indoors, you can start your seeds at any time during the year. If you intend to transplant or move your basil plants outside, wait till mid-March to plant your seeds.

  1. Wash and disinfect a pot 15 cm in diameter. Ensure there are holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain.
  2. Fill with seeding soil up to 2 cm from the rim.
  3. Water to moisten the soil but not to drench it.
  4. Plant 10 seeds, with adequate spacing, then cover them with 5 mm of soil. Moisten the soil once more.
  5. Put a cover or plastic film over the seeds.
  6. Place the pot somewhere warm (21ºC). Sun and heat promote germination.
  7. When sprouts appear, generally after 5-10 days, remove the cover or plastic film. Expose the sprouts to lots of sun, at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.
  8. When plants have reached a height of 10 cm, pinch off shoots to encourage new growth.
  9. Keep plants in a warm and sunny place and keep the soil moist.
  10. Turn plants a quarter-turn every 3-5 days so that stems keep growing straight (plants direct their growth towards the sun).