African Blue Basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)

Description

African blue basil, Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal,’ is an attractive, fragrant perennial herb. This plant is a hybrid of two basil species: camphor basil (a perennial) and common basil (an annual); the resulting cross is sterile and perennial. The plant has a somewhat spicy basil flavor with a hint of camphor, making its taste slightly medicinal. African blue basil grows to five feet tall and wide; it continually grows up and falls over, creating a bush-like habit. This plant flowers profusely and is constantly buzzing from all the pollinators coming to visit. This is one of the most carefree plants in my garden. No pests bother it, and it’s always there, just growing and flowering.

Propagation

African blue basil is sterile, producing no viable seeds, and is therefore propagated by cuttings. Woody and non-woody cuttings work for propagation.

Cuttings ready for propagation

Care

This basil is carefree; it will thrive on neglect and on poor soils. It just grows and grows. Regular fertilizing and pruning promotes healthy tender growth.

Eating

Leaves are edible raw or cooked. In order to encourage the most tender leafy growth, prune regularly, removing flower heads, just as you would with common basil.

Spinach or other greens and spices can be utilized in order to offset the somewhat medicinal taste; many use this technique for pesto and other sauces, dips and spreads.

Where to obtain planting materials

Find someone growing this plant and ask for cuttings. I’ve never seen this plant for sale; it was gifted to me by a neighbor some years ago.

My Garden

I’ve been growing this plant for a few years, now, just as an unidentified blue or purple basil. I utilize it in my polycultures primarily as a biomass plant to feed the soil and as a pollinator attractant, eating a leaf myself here or there. I recently identified the plant as African Blue Basil and started learning a bit more about it. Only today, I learned that people actually make pesto with it – yum! With that in mind, it’s time to go prune my plants and get them to push out some tender new growth for consumption.

Happy Gardening!

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