Purple Basil (Ocimum basilicum var.)

20171027_084830Purple pesto, anyone?  Deep purple color, sprays of pink flowers, amazing basil taste.  It’s kind of nice when nature wraps up all the best features into a single plant.  This basil makes a stunning addition to any salad and turned my basil jelly a lovely garnet hue.

Basil Jelly made with Purple Basil.

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**A handy growing summary chart is at the end of the article.**

Almost all basils are annuals, meaning they are meant to live for only a single season.  Depending on what zone you are in will then determine the best time for planting, and how often you can plant successive crops.  Basils are not hardy, so be sure to start seeds or transplant into your garden after any risk of frost is gone.  They also don’t like high heat, so don’t wait too long to get them going.  You can help them along in hot summer areas like mine by ensuring they have consistent moisture and a little shade, either in the morning or afternoon.  You can get another round of plants going in the later summer if you have a mild autumn for them to mature in.

20171027_084752Purple Basil is a slightly petite plant.  Here it grows up to 1 1/2 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide.  This makes them perfect for the front of your planting area, and will quickly grow to fill in spaces.  Protect them from slugs and snails, as they will nibble on the leaves if they get a chance.

20171027_084803Once summer gets going, basils tend to want to go to seed quickly.  They put out profuse arrays of blooms that bees absolutely love.  The blooms of Purple Basil pop out on purple flower spikes above deep purple, or purple and green variegated, leaves.  The flowers themselves are a light lavender color.  Not only will this plant compliment your food, it makes an attractive plant for the garden, as well.  As pretty as the flowers are, you will want to trim them off fairly regularly to prevent the plant from going to seed and moving on to the afterlife.  By removing the flowers, the plant thinks it failed at reproducing and so it will stick around to try again.  You can actually cook with the flower clusters, too, but the leaves will have the best flavor.  Don’t forget to try them in my Basil Jelly recipe or in homemade pesto.

20171027_084856.jpgHarvest leaves earlier in the day while it is cool.  Make sure the plant isn’t droopy from heat or water loss, or your leaves won’t be very tasty.  Basil tends to be best when used fresh, but they can be gently dried for later use.

Plant Summary:

  • Annual
  • Flower Color: light purple
  • Height: up to 1-2 feet
  • Width: up to 1-2 feet
  • Sun: full sun, or part shade in hotter regions
  • Water: needs regular water, keep soil moist
  • Soil pH: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Soil type: tolerates various soils
  • Key nutrients: balanced
  • Planting time: early through late spring, can replant in early fall in areas with warmer winters

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