What Is Genovese Basil?

O. Parker

Genovese basil is a variety of basil native to Asia, Africa, and India. The scientific name Ocimum basilicum refers to sweet basil, of which Genovese is a cultivated variety, or a cultivar. Genovese basil is commonly cultivated for use in pesto and other culinary dishes. This basil variety is an annual that grows well in hot weather and is commonly a part of a well-stocked herb garden.

Crostini with basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes.
Crostini with basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes.

There are more than 60 different varieties of basil in the plant family Lamiaceae. Genovese basil belongs to this family and is a cultivated variety of sweet basil. The plants grow to 18 inches (about 45 cm) tall in an upright growth pattern and have bright green leaves.

Genovese basil.
Genovese basil.

This sweet basil cultivar is an annual herb that grows well in soil with good drainage and a spot in full sun. Full sun is a term that indicates at least six hours of bright, direct sunlight a day, but basil plants thrive on all the sun they can get. This versatile plant can grow in soil with a pH range between 5 and 8.

Seeds should be started indoors in late winter so that when warm weather arrives in spring, the plants are ready to go in the ground. Genovese basil is a common variety and can be found as seedlings at markets and plant nurseries. The seeds should be started six to eight weeks before the last frost date. A seed flat, filled with soilless seed starting medium is ideal for starting basil seeds. The seeds take between eight and 14 days to germinate.

Once the last frost date has passed, Genovese basil can be planted into the garden bed. Mixing 2 to 4 inches (about 5 to 10 cm) of well-rotted compost or seasoned manure into the soil before planting can help to improve soil nutrients. When adding compost or manure to the planting bed, it should be mixed into the top 6 to 8 inches (about 15 to 20 cm) of soil.

When growing Genovese basil, regular application of fertilizer can help to add important nutrients to the soil. A 10-10-10 formula fertilizer applied every three to four weeks can provide basil with all the nutrients it requires. It is important to note, however, that adding compost or manure to the soil prior to planting may make additional fertilizing unnecessary if the soil is already high in nutrients.

Genovese basil leaves can be harvested as needed from the plant. Taking a few leaves from several plants allows the plants to continue to grow through the season. Additionally, flowers should be pinched off as they appear to prevent the plants from going to seed. Basil is sensitive to frost, so all plants should be harvested at the soil line before the first winter frost arrives.

Genovese basil is often a main ingredient in pesto sauce.
Genovese basil is often a main ingredient in pesto sauce.

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