We’re finally past our average latest frost date. That’s not to say we can’t get a nipping frost even as late as mid-May. But, for the most part, if you like to do direct seeding in the garden, it’s time to go crazy.


I’ll be direct seeding my basil (Ocimum basilicum) this year. If you prefer sets, you’ll find plenty to choose from at garden centers. They have sweet basils with delicate lemon, cinnamon and licorice scents. It’s usually not hard to find purple leafed varieties and the popular small leafed or boxwood basil. Occasionally, you can find large-leafed or lettuce leaf basils in sets but, more often, you’ll have to get seeds for these.


Why do we need all these different types of basils? Well, variety is the spice of life and that is never as true as with basil. A friend of mine who is a chef insists that large-leafed basil is the best to use in the kitchen if, for no other reason, you want to cut down on the amount of chopping you do.


He makes short work of his prep time by stacking several large basil leaves together, rolling them up and doing a chiffonade — which is just a fancy way of saying thinly sliced.


Cinnamon and lemon basils work nicely in fruit and vegetable salads where their light fragrances aren’t destroyed by heat. You can make a distinctive pesto with any of the purple leave basils or stick with the classic green ones for your pesto-dressed pastas. Purple basils also make lovely vinegars.


A couple of other basils available to us are Thai basil, O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora, and sacred or holy basil, O. tenuiflorum or O. sanctum. Holy basil is also called tulsi.


Thai basil has an anise flavor that works well in Asian and fish dishes. Sacred basil has a unique fragrance and flavor. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’ve heard it variously described as clove, cinnamon, anise or some combination of all of the above. While it can be used in Asian and Indian dishes, I use it most often as a nice, calming, relaxing tea. It’s worth having sacred basil for those restless nights when you can’t get to sleep or for the stressful days at work.


I’ve never grown either of these from seed, but I understand both are as simple as sweet basil to grow in the garden. Hopefully, this year, I’ll find out.


* J.D. Walker’s garden column appears each Thursday. Follow her on Facebook at GardenSown.