Growing herbs in your home garden and landscape
Basil is an annual with broad, medium green or purple leaves. The plants reach a height of 12" — 24" and produce small white flowers on spikes in midsummer. There are several varieties of basil that can be successfully grown.
Sweet Basil comes in a variety of types and is the standard basil commonly sold.
Sow the seed in spring as soon as the ground can be worked, or start with transplants from a garden center and set them out after all danger of frost is past. Space plants 8 to 12" apart. For fresh use, harvest the leaves 6 weeks after planting or as the leaves mature. To keep a steady supply of new leaves, pinch off the flower spikes just after they form. The leaves dry well, either by hang drying or in the microwave. They will shrink in volume and become brittle but still retain their flavor.
The crushed leaves of basil have a sweet, anise-like flavor and aroma. They are used to perk up any vegetable, poultry, or meat dish. Basil is also often used in tomato and egg dishes, stews, soups, and salads. It is a principal ingredient of pesto, a green sauce that is added to soups, vegetables, and fish, and to pasta in Mediterranean cooking.
The early Romans made it a symbol of love and fertility. Through the centuries, it became a custom of young Italian suitors to wear a sprig of Basil as a sign of their marital intentions. In India, Hindus believed that if a leaf of Basil were buried with them, it would serve as their passport to heaven. Source: McCormick