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"Pesto Perpetuo" Basil

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This year I grew a pot of this basil to make some late-season pesto. If you're not familiar with this variety, it is an attractive plant, with smallish, variegated leaves: light green mottled with dark green and white around the edges. It grows upright in columns. As a culinary herb, its main claim to fame is that it does not flower and so does not go downhill as most varieties of basil do once the flower stalks come out.

We had an early freeze last week in central PA, and I harvested the leaves just in time. Based on some glowing reports on the Internet (plus the fact that it has "pesto" in its name), I had high hopes for the sauce I intended to make with it. I have to say, however, that I'm somewhat disappointed. To my tastebuds, pesto made with pesto perpetuo basil is bland and tastes "off" compared to pesto made with Genovese basil.

Has anyone else been more satisfied than I with this variety of basil or found a better use for it?

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  1. While it is edible our local grower recommended this variety as more of an ornamental plant than a pesto ingredient.

    1. I grew some of it a couple of years ago and I too found that the pesto I made with it tasted weird. The flavor is too licorice-y/menthol-y or something. Anyway, I used mine up by adding a small amount of it to pesto made with mostly Genovese basil, which worked out fine. I think I made a non-traditional pesto as well (with a mix of herbs and almonds instead of pine nuts) which worked out well.

      2 Replies
      1. re: biondanonima

        Yours is a good idea. Unfortunately, at this point of the year, there's no more fresh Genovese basil to be had. I'm trying to determine if I there's a way I can "doctor up" the remaining portions of the pesto or if I should just get rid of the whole lot.

        Pesto perpetuo is a cross between the common species of basil and citriodorum, which, in its pure form, is lemon basil. (I didn't know that at first, or I might have thought twice about buying it.) It doesn't smell or taste lemony to me, but your description of it as menthol-y is on target.

        HillJ, your grower got it right. It is quite pretty as an ornamental. My local nursery, however, sold it as a culinary variety of basil ideal for making pesto and labeled it incorrectly as "Italian basil" to boot. I knew that it wasn't Italian basil, but took a chance on it anyway.

        1. re: cheesemaestro

          I'd try making a mixed herb pesto out of it before dumping it - I'm sure you've got some expensive cheese and nuts already invested. As I recall, whatever I came up with (probably parsley, sage, thyme, maybe oregano or marjoram) ended up tasting pretty good. You could also add mint and just make it into a mint pesto - delicious with lamb.