Basil-Pesto Perpetuo

  • Plant Type: Warm-season annual
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 18 to 48 inches tall, 18 to 36 inches wide
  • Culinary Use: Fresh, dried, or frozen leaves for flavoring Italian or Asian cuisine

Pesto lovers will want Ocimum x citriodorum 'Pesto Perpetuo' in their gardens. Leaves are variegated, giving this colorful plant ornamental value.

Pesto Perpetuo doesn’t flower, so plants produce foliage all season long—plenty for pounds of pesto. Plants tend toward an upright, less spreading form, making them ideal for small gardens and containers.

Plant Spacing: 12 to 18 inches. Plants Per Person: 1 to 2; 4 to 6 for making pesto.

Secrets to Success »

Basil is a tropical plant, craving warmth, and very sensitive to cold. Plant in spring after all danger of frost has passed and when night temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees F. Tuck plants into fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Fertilize basil with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. Trim basil in late spring to produce branched, bushy plants.

Harvest and Use »

Harvest leaves at any point after plants are established. Pick leaves in the morning, after dew dries. Water plants the night before to wash soil from foliage. Leaves bruise easily; handle with care. Do not refrigerate harvested leaves. If you can’t process leaves immediately, cut entire stems and hold them in a vase or glass of water until you can process.

Pesto Perpetuo basil offers a complex flavor that echoes a sweet Genovese basil with lemon overtones. Try this basil in traditional Italian dishes, sauces, and pesto. It’s also wonderful in Asian cuisine, soups, and desserts. Leaves pair well with fish, too.

To preserve basil, dry whole leaves and store in sealed containers in a dark place. To release flavor, break leaves just before using. You can also freeze basil, whole or chopped, in ice cube trays filled with water or olive oil. The flavor preserves best when frozen in pesto. You can also blend chopped leaves into softened butter. Store butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or form into balls and freeze on a cookie sheet. Store frozen balls in zipper bags, using them to flavor vegetables, pasta, and soups.

Try these garden companions »

  • Cilantro, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers to create classic pasta sauce.
  • Thyme, oregano, and onion chives for an herbal container garden.
  • A large slicing tomato, like Big Beef, Red Beefsteak, or Pink Brandywine, to serve a classic caprese salad.
  • Parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and onion chives for a traditional herb garden.

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