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Basil (Ocimum basilicum L. and its varieties) is a popular herb known for its flavorful foliage. The fresh or dried leaves add a distinctive flavor to many foods, such as Italian style tomato sauces, pesto sauce and salad dressing. The essential oils and oleo-resins may be extracted from leaves and flowers and used for flavoring in liqueurs and for fragrance in perfumes and soaps.
Varieties – Many types of basil are available, depending on use. For fresh market production, select a basil with good flavor and attractive, dark green or purple foliage. Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) is the culinary classic. Italian, Lettuce Leaf and Opal are popular sweet basil varieties. Scented basils, such as Lemon, Licorice and Cinnamon basil, are used fresh or dried in potpourri, jellies, honeys, vinegars and baked goods. For production of dried leaves or essential oils, French, American or Egyptian basil may be grown. There are also several ornamental type basils.
Planting – All basils are tender annuals which are easy to grow, but are very susceptible to cold weather. They should be planted in late spring after all danger of frost is past. To produce high quality basil, grow it in full sun in warm, well-drained soil. Raised beds are highly recommended because they promote good drainage and warm quickly in the spring. A light sand to silt loam with a pH of 6.4 is best.

Jeanine M. Davis
NC State University