Fresh herbs are wonderful things–there’s nothing like their flavor. And after a summer of growing and flavoring with them, it can be tough to say goodbye to those that are true annuals (remember, an annual is defined as a plant whose growing season is completed in a single year–or, as I prefer to think of it, a plant whose job is to set seed and die. That’s why basil is constantly flowering–because flowers lead to seed!)
While some perennial herbs like chives can be potted up and brought in, and others like thyme will usually do fine on an indoor windowsill, many of the rest can be very tricky. Rosemary is notoriously finicky about water–too little and it dies, too much and it dies and in between it gets covered with powdery mildew so that you don’t want to use it in cooking anyway.
Basil, on the other hand, is usually thought of as a true annual–the reason it’s always such a struggle to keep it from flowering. There is, however, a perennial basil that can be grown indoors on a windowsill (and when I say perennial, I mean tender perennial–don’t try to winter this basil outdoors in the garden!)
But the advantage of this basil is that, as a perennial, (known botanically as ocimum x ‘Pesto Perpetuo,’) it will continue to grow, albeit slowly and anemically throughout winter without supplemental light. But there will be fresh leaves to use for any dishes that might require it. There won’t be enough for pesto, (don’t let the name fool you!) and surely with the quality of winter tomatoes no one would even think of making caprese salads anyway, but for flavoring sauces this plant is just the thing.
It also helps that its leaves are slightly stronger flavored than traditional large leafed basil–so you don’t need as many.
And best of all, it seems to shake off a lot of the fungal problems that other basils have when they are grown in cooler temperatures or in lower light conditions. It may get a wonky leaf or shoot, but it can easily be pruned out without the whole plant becoming affected.
Overall, this basil is perfect for transitioning to fall–and beyond. And it makes a pretty addition to the garden as well. Next year, try it as a landscape plant!