By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Basil is one of those herbs that adds a unique, almost licorice scent and outstanding flavor to many international cuisines. It is an easy-to-grow plant but requires warm weather and is frost tender. In most areas it is considered an annual but can be perennial in tropical regions. Superbo basil is a prolific leaf producer and has intense flavor.
What is Superbo basil? Keep reading to find out more about this variety of basil and how you can grow this fragrant herb.
There’s basil and then there’s Superbo pesto basil. It is aclassic sweet basil and has a starring role in one of the most popular foodsfrom Italy – pesto. Superbo pesto basil was developed specifically for thatzesty sauce. According to Superbo basil information, it makes a greatsubstitute for Genovese and has a more intense flavor.
Superbo is a compact, bush-like herb. The basic essentialoils in basil, which give it the unique flavor, are cineol, eugenol, linalol,and estragol. These provide the spicy, minty, sweet, fresh taste of the herb.Superbo basil information informs us that it was developed by choosing thebasil species with the highest amounts of the first three oils, leaving out themint flavor.
Pesto is only one of Superbo basil uses, but it was withthis sauce in mind that the variety was developed. The medium plant has deeplygreen leaves that slightly cup under. It was bred from ‘Genovese classic.’
Basil is started from seed. Plant outdoors when soiltemperatures are at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C.). In order to keep cropsgoing as you harvest, successively plant every three weeks. Make sure the soilis fertile and well draining, and grow the plant in full sun.
In cooler regions, plant indoors in flats 6 weeks before thelast expected frost. Harden off seedlings after they have developed two sets oftrue leaves and plant them in a prepared bed.
Keep basil moderately moist. Harvest leaves as needed. Inhot temperatures, the plant may begin to bolt. Pinch off flowers as they appear.
There’s more to food than pesto, although that is a goodstart. Use Superbo fresh in salads, as a garnish on pizza, tossed in pasta andin dressing and marinade.
If you have a bumper crop, make pesto and freeze in ice cubetrays or muffin tins. Dry basil leaves in a food dehydrator and store in aglass jar in a cool, dark place for winter use.
When the plant is getting older, use the leaves to make afragrant and flavorful oil or vinegar. If you take almost all the leaves on aplant, cut the stem near the soil, leaving at least three nice big leaves. Itshould sprout anew and produce more leaves.
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Sun The amount of sunlight this product needs daily in order to perform well in the garden. Full sun means 6 hours of direct sun per day partial sun means 2-4 hours of direct sun per day shade means little or no direct sun.
Days To Maturity The average number of days from when the plant is actively growing in the garden to the expected time of harvest.
Life Cycle This refers to whether a plant is an annual, biennial or perennial. Annuals complete their life cycles in one year biennials produce foliage the first year and bloom and go to seed the second year perennials can live for more than two years.
Height The typical height of this product at maturity.
Spread The width of the plant at maturity.
Additional Uses Additional ways in which the product may be used in the garden.
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Basil may be grown from seed sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost, or sown directly in the garden, or planted as a potted plant.
Sowing Seed Indoors:
Sowing Directly in the Garden:
Planting in the Garden:
Downy mildew has taken a toll on basil the last few years. (Photo: Provided by Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab)
Basil has taken a huge hit over the last few years from a downy mildew, which can quickly decimate a crop in the farmers' fields, growers' greenhouses and our gardens. Downy mildew is the common name for this disease, even though the fungus that causes it may be different, depending on the plant. It gets the name from the symptoms, downy-like fuzz on the leaves.
On basil, the culprit is Peronospora balbahrii. Initially, the leaves turn yellow, and then black spots appear. That's followed by fuzzy spores on the undersides of leaves. The problem starts at the base of the plant and moves up. The fungus is airborne or can be splashed on plants from infested soil. Plants and seeds can be infected, according to the University of Minnesota Extension, where the disease first showed up in 2012.
Here in Indiana, Purdue University has seen only a handful of samples since 2009. "A couple each year," said Tom Creswell, director of Purdue's Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab.
"Most of our reports from the home garden have been from the home garden of Tom Creswell," he joked. "It seems that if this is showing up extensively in the home garden, then either no one is paying attention or it comes on so late in the season that they've already made pesto, or they don't know they can send samples to the lab for help."
• Remove any infested leaves. It's all right to eat healthy leaves from infested plants.
• Plant resistant varieties. Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is the most susceptible, which includes Genovese, Nufar, Italian Large Leaf, Queenette, Superbo, Poppy Joe's and others, according to Minnesota Extension. Red Rubin and Red Leaf (O. basilicum purpurescens) and lemon basils (O. citriodorum) are considered moderately susceptible. Blue Spice, Spice and Blue Spice F1 (O. americanum) are less susceptible.
• Don't plant basil in the same spot year after year. If you grow basil in a pot, dump the soil each year and scrub the pot with a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water. Use fresh potting mix each year.
• Give plants plenty of air circulation.
• Closely examine basil plants at garden centers to make sure they are symptom free.
• Consider growing basil from seed. It's easy and plants come up quickly.
Winner Type: National
Variety Name: Siam Queen
Species: basilicum L.
Common Name: Thai Basil
Type: Edible – vegetable
Breeder: East West/Petoseed/Seminis Vegetable Seeds
Close Market Comparison: Standard Thai basil, Thai name Horapha, Vietnamese name Hung Que
Duration Type: Annual
Light Needs: Full sun
Water Needs: Normal
Season Type: Warm season
Staking Required: No
Foliage Color: Green
Plant Habit: Bushy, Upright
Plant Height: 20-24 inches
Fruit Shape: Large leaves
Garden Spacing: 2 feet
Days To Harvest (Sowing Seed): 75 to 100 days depending upon growing conditions
Days To Harvest (Transplant): 45-50 days to first harvest, can be harvest for 3-4 months
Plant Spread: 24 inches
Grows quickly when given temperatures above 68 degrees. The seeds are quick to germinate in about 3-7 days so even inexperienced gardeners may consider growing ‘Siam Queen’ from seed. Remember it is of tropical origin so provide warm soil and air temperatures for rapid vigorous growth.