Want to have your cake and eat it, too? Start growing Crimson King basil. It will be showy in the landscape and flavor your Italian cuisine.
Crimson King is a Genovese-type basil that reaches 18-plus inches in the garden. These basils are the culinary aristocrats used in Italian cooking, ideally suited to those pesto and tomato-basil recipes. They are known for having crinkly, turned-in leaves with a rich spicy clove scent.
It would be hard to find a prettier basil for the garden; it is as striking as a coleus in the flowerbed.
Freshly harvested leaves of Crimson King basil mixed with juicy tomatoes, olive oil and garlic spooned over hot pasta are a feast.
Crimson King basil is easy to grow, and it adds grace to both the herb and vegetable garden. In the landscape, the deep dark purple leaves will go with just about any flower color, making them look showier. Crimson King basil asks for nothing more than full sun and well-drained soil. Prepare the soil by spreading 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and 1 pound per 100 square feet of a slow release, 5-10-5 fertilizer, and till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches.
Set transplants 18 to 24 inches apart. They will grow to 18 to 24 inches tall and wide. Crimson King basil thrives in warm summer weather and excels in fall plantings as well.
Keep your plants watered and harvested and flower buds pinched for a long crop. Harvest just as the flower buds are forming for the most concentrated oils, flavor and fragrance. Apply the same fertilizer with small applications every four to six weeks, or after harvest. Cut or pinch Crimson King just above a leaf or pair of leaves, removing no more than one-fourth of the plant at any one time. This leaves enough foliage to keep the plant healthy and looking good.
Air-drying produces a bounty of tasty basil for use all winter. Rinse the leaves in cool water and gently shake off extra moisture. When thoroughly dry, tie a handful of stems firmly into a bundle. Place the bundle in a paper bag, gather the top of the bag around the stems and tie again. Label and hang the bag in a dry place where the temperature doesnt get above 80 degrees. After two to four weeks, the herbs should be dry and crumbly.
Once basil is dried, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark cupboard. Keep the leaves whole if possible to preserve the oils; crush or grind only when using them.