Lemon Basil (Ocimum × citriodorum) is a hybrid between Basil (Ocimum basilicum) and African Basil (Ocimum americanum)).
It is a herb grown primarily in northeastern Africa and southern Asia, for its strong fragrant lemon scent it is used in cooking, essential oils.
Lemon basil has stems that can grow to 3' tall. It has white flowers in late summer to early fall. The leaves are similar to Basil leaves, but tend to be narrower. Seeds form on the plant after flowering and dry on the plant.
Lemon basil requires the same care as other basil varieties. Being a tropical plant it should be in a spot receiving at least six hours of direct sunlight. It is actually quite hardy and will grow continuously given only water, but flavor will be at risk if not given any fertilizer, chemical or organic. It can really grow in a matter of weeks. The only pointer to remember about watering is it should be watered whenever the topmost part of the soil is dry. At this time the plant will wilt, but will be back to normal once watered.
Basil should never reach flowering during the harvesting periods. If given a chance to flower, its flavor will be sacrificed and the leaves become smaller and rather leathery. Once the flower clusters form, they should be removed so that the plant will continue its vegetative growth. It is, however, a good idea for it to be left to flower and set seeds that will be collected during fall, because the cold winter frosts will kill the basil plant anyway so sowing the seeds 2 weeks indoors before the last frost will provide next year's harvest.
Harvesting once a week for each plant will make it bushy due to the side shoots that will develop. The plant should never be completely defoliated. Propagation is achieved by sowing seeds and from stem cuttings. Seedlings will reach six inches in 3-4 weeks and should be harvested at this time to let them branch out. Stem cuttings will gain roots after a week of being soaked in water. The setup is simply a mason jar filled with water and a square of mesh with big enough holes to hold the plant in place while the roots grow. As many cuttings as the gardener wishes can be planted, preferably the most vigorous stems that can be found because they will root faster.The water should be changed every few days. After 2-3 weeks, the roots will be long enough for it to be transplanted into a pot or to its permanent position in the garden.
'Lemon basil' has a strong lemony smell and flavour very different from those of other varieties, because it contains a chemical called citral. It is widely used in Indonesia, where it is called kemangi and served raw, together with raw cabbage, green beans, and cucumber,
LEMON BASIL TAPENADE
This spread from the South of France is a natural on grilled bread or pizza, or as a stuffing for chicken breasts.
1 cup pitted black Niçoise or Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped lemon basil
3 tablespoons chopped capers
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
Place olives, garlic, basil and capers in a food processor. Pulse a few times until the mixture becomes a rough paste. Place in mixing bowl and add lemon juice and pepper. May be stored in refrigerator up to one week. Bring to room temperature before serving.
QUICK FRESH TOMATO SAUCE WITH LEMON BASIL
Perfect for quick and tasty meals. Serve over chicken, pasta, tofu, fish or rice.
3 ripe red tomatoes (the best available), peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 package lemon basil
Heat oil in fry pan. Add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds to a minute, being careful not to brown. Add tomatoes with their juice. Season and cook for 10-15 minutes. Add chopped basil and serve immediately. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to one week.
MORE USES OF BASIL!
To make oil for salads, pound the fresh leaves and mix with a good salad or vegetable oil. If freezing the leaves, coat them with olive oil first. Leaves also can be dried and stored in salt.
In the landscape, don’t merely relegate basil to the herb or vegetable garden. Consider planting it in scented gardens, or use it as edging along a bed or path that you'll brush past and release the aroma. Or try mass plantings of basil in a border, plant in decorative outdoor containers, or grow in pots indoors, if you have lots of light. In ancient times, pots of basil on the windowsill were used to deter flies.
Other uses of basil include the cosmetic. Put fresh leaves in a hot bath as an infusion, for example. As a tonic, steep a few leaves in wine for several hours. Or steep in water as a tea to aid digestion. A drop of basil oil on shirtsleeves will help counteract mental fatigue.