Amazing, cantankerous, Basil!

One of the special herbs of the summer is Basil. It can quite literally transform a meal into a feast and a drink into an elixir !

Bountiful Basil

Bountiful Basil
Photograph © Jekka

It is however one of the most cantankerous plants to grow in our ever changing climate.  Quite simply it hates going to bed wet and cold.  So the best way to grow it is in containers which should then be positioned against a south facing wall.  This way you will protect it from the winds, it will benefit from the warmth of the wall and it will be protected from getting drenched in the rain.  For any plant that is grown against a wall is approximately 25% drier than growing it in the open ground.

There are now so many varieties of Basil available, from Ocimum basilicum ‘Napolitano’ with it’s large lettuce leaf to the delectable Ocimum basilicum ‘Mrs Burns’, which has exquisite lemon flavoured and scented leaves,

Mrs Burns Basil Photograph ©Jekka
Ocimum basilicum ‘Mrs Burns’ basil
Photograph ©Jekka

and the spicy Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’ from Mexico .

Cinnamon Basil Photograph ©Jekka

Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’ basil
Photograph ©Jekka

Whichever you choose the flowers are also edible and will taste very similar to the leaves.  The cinnamon basil flowers are wonderful scattered over couscous or a rice salad.

Basil is immensely versatile in the kitchen and is renowned for use in salads,  however it is also brilliant for making sorbets, biscuits and wonderful cocktails.

Just recently at the HerbFest in London I was introduced to Basil Blossom cocktail.

Basil Blossom cocktail

Basil Blossom cocktail

I have subsequently made my own Lemon Basil cocktail.

Lemon Basil syrup.                                                                                                                         200 gm granulated sugar,  250 ml water, roughly one handful of lemon basil   (preferably Mrs Burns). Place the water, basil leaves and sugar in a small saucepan, stirring, bring to the boil. Cover, leave to infuse for 5 mins. Pour into a container with a lid. Refrigerate once cold.   This syrup will keep in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks, it is immensely useful not only for making cocktails but also with fruit dishes.

Lemon Basil Cocktail                                                                                                             3-4 leaves of lemon Basil,   zest of one washed lemon,   40ml white rum,    the juice of one lemon,  30ml lemon basil syrup,   soda water to top up.                         In a tall glass, add the lemon zest and the basil leaves. Using a spoon, crush and mix them together so that the basil leaves are bruised which will release the essential oils.  Fill the glass with crushed ice, mixing as you go with the basil leaves and lemon zest.      Either using a cocktail shaker or a sealed container  add the rum, lemon juice and basil syrup, shake together, then pour over the crushed ice, top up with the soda water.  Serve with a slice of lemon and some basil leaves.   Enjoy.

The Herboretum and Herb Farm will be open on the following dates, 28th June, 5th July and 12th July. Entry is free and we will have the wonderful  Mrs Burns and Cinnamon Basil for sale.

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11 thoughts on “Amazing, cantankerous, Basil!

  1. Love basil, but so does the greenfly :( have stopped growing it as it was impossible to control the greenfly without chemicals. I will buy some basil in to try that delicious syrup though! I wonder does the syrup freeze well?

    • Sorry to hear that. Can I suggest that next time, you get a clove of garlic, crush it into one liter of hot, just off the boil, water. Let it steep for a couple of hours, then strain into a hand spray. Garlic spray deters flies of all sorts.

  2. Dear Jekka, Husband to Jekka, Hannah, Simon et al at JEKKA’S HERB FARM What a lovely visit and afternoon we spent at your lovely farm last Friday. As I told you, it was my first visit for over six years, since Geoff was diagnosed, suffered but fought so bravely with his cancer, but sadly finally he had to succumb last September. Now I am starting to do things and visit places that we enjoyed so much – and I knew one of the first places would be your farm. Geoff, not a gardener or herb enthusiast, but supported me in my simple love of them, and he was so enamoured with your beautiful farm and kind attention to all your fond customers. Jane, Geoff’s palliative care nurse who has become a good friend, was very impressed too – a good gardener, but didn’t know too much about herbs, but has now got a huge interest! Thank you for your most interesting and instructive talk. I am going to have another go at taking cuttings of my ginger rosemary – so many people have remarked on it and loved it, and I have taken so many cuttings in the past which have failed, but am going to follow your instructions, once I have obtained the necessary white plastic! I’ll keep you informed. I thought all the new alterations so good and useful – those raised beds are truly inspirational – just like you all!!! I’m thrilled with my new purchases – especially the basils – and I intend to have a go at the syrup and cocktail! Love and best wishes to you all – and repeated thanks. Ever VALERIE WILSON Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2013 12:41:57 +0000 To: val.geoff@hotmail.co.uk

    • Dear Valerie, it was lovely to see yourself and Jane here last Friday. Good luck with the cuttings, I look forward to hearing all about them and hopefully welcoming you here again in the near future. Love from Jekka

  3. Hello, im from Indonesia.. see your basil picture.. I see some kind of basil.. but im not familliar with them. I only know basil that for food, not for drink… may you can explain another kind??

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