"Basil is a cinch for us in this Alabama heat," says Mary Beth Shaddix, master tender of the Cooking Light Garden. "If you've got the right environment for tomatoes, then it's pretty easy to grow basil."
Italian sweet basil is what you'll find in most supermarkets. But there's so much more, and a home garden—even a window box or two—lets you explore basil's wider range. Some kinds offer bright citrus on top of the familiar peppery anise flavors; the deep purple colors of others make a striking garnish for simple picnic dishes. These varieties are perfect partners for summery foods such as ripe, meaty tomatoes, field peas and beans, and even sweet stone fruit and cocktails.