I grow several different types of basil, and try new ones each year. Usually, I end up preferring the basic sweet basil to other kinds, but not this year. A new favorite this year is lime basil.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) has many different cultivars. They are generally divided into four groups: sweet green, dwarf green, purple-leaf, and scented leaf.
Lime Basil is a scented leaf basil. True to its name and type, it has a mild citrus aroma and flavor. Lime basil is slightly smaller than sweet basil, growing to about a foot tall. Mom uses it in her lemon cookies. I use it in my tomato-cucumber salad and plan to try it in mojitos and on grilled fish.
While I'm enjoying using lime basil in various food and drink, sweet green basil will always be a staple in my garden. Sweet basil grows about two foot tall with bright green leaves. It has a clove-like taste that I particularly like as a hot tea additive or made into pesto-pasto. In fact, I use sweet basil so much that I grow it and cilantro year round. In the summer I plant transplants in the outdoor herb garden, and in the winter I grow them from seed in my aerogarden. This year I am also growing both of these plants in containers on the patio.
'Dark Opal Purple' Basil is also an ole, standby in my garden. It is similar to sweet basil in taste and plant size, but with dark bronze-purple leaves. Other purple-leaf basils include 'Purple Ruffles' and 'Rubin.' I infuse purple basil leaves in vinegar to use in salads, egg dishes, and more.
Thai basil is my least favorite basil, probably because it strong taste is too much like black licorice. Another scented leaf basil, it is used in Thai and Indian cooking. Taller than sweet basil, Thai basil grows to three foot in height.
If you are limited on space or want to grow container herbs on the patio, try a dwarf green type. 'Spicy globe' is only grows six to twelve inches tall, thus making it an excellent container or edging plant. Though miniature, it tastes like a sweet basil.
All basil types are easy to grow, either from seed or transplants. They prefer sunny locations, warm temperatures, and moist, but well-drained soil. As soon as the plant has some size, begin cutting off the leaves for cooking. The newest leaves have the best flavor. This will also keep the plant from flowering, which shortens the life of the plant. Regular harvesting will encourage branching and the production of new leaves.
For more information on growing basil and other herbs, go to University of Illinois Extension's Herb Gardening website at http://extension.illinois.edu/herbs. I also have a short YouTube video on harvesting herbs at go.illinois.edu/ILRiverHort Videos.