Genovese Basil is important to Italian cuisine and traditionally was a symbol of love throughout Italy. When women were preparing for courtship, many would place a potted Genovese outside of their door to signal suitors that they were receptive to their calls.
A hugely popular culinary herb, the tall and relatively slow-to-bolt stems on this basil plant bare dark green leaves about 3" long. The edible, aromatic foliage yields abundant leaves with authentic Italian basil flavor that is perfect in a pesto sauce. Easy to grow in containers or outdoors, this classic basil has mildly spicy flavor and sweet fragrance fantastic for seasonings, salads, garnishes and pesto. Basil is also a fantastic companion plant and natural pest repellent.
It can grow up to 24 inches in height and takes about 68 days to reach maturity, but since you are pinching the tops to make it bushier starting as soon as it has 5 leaves, you can begin eating it long before the plant reaches maurity.
Whichever of the three basils you plant, harvesting is about the same. Basil should be harvested before the plant flowers or to keep the plant from flowering. The leaves have more flavor when harvested in the morning. The young, top leaves taste the best, and should be used fresh; the older leaves may be used for vinegar and pesto. Cut a few stems but never more than 1/3 of the plant. Wash stems, gently shake dry, and strip the leaves off the stem. If there is any chance of temperature dropping to 32° F, harvest crop immediately; basil is very frost sensitive.
As with most varieties of basil, they love the sun and cannot tolerate cold. If you are keeping it indoors to extend its growing season, make sure it gets lots of light and adequate, but not excessive water. Pinch the flowering tops down to the first set of leaves, or first node, to prolong its usefulness in the kitchen.
I posted a traditional pesto recipe along with preservation instructions for freezing it in a previous post in August 2010. However I will share with you here another favorite pesto recipe.