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 !
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,
and the spicy Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’ from Mexico .
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.
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.