Ocimum basilicum 'Dark Opal' with the acid yellow leaves of Iresine
We have the University of Connecticut to thank for introducing this dark purple Basil to the world. Back in the late 1950's, the then Professor of Plant Sciences at the University, Joseph M. Lent and his colleague John Scarchuk began work on improving the existing purple form of Basil which always showed traces of green in the leaves. After a review of the list of the U.S.D.A. plant introductions, they found a purple-tinged Basil which had come from Turkey. Then followed years of intensive inbreeding and selection to obtain a Basil with a uniform purple colour which would come true to seed. In 1962, 'Dark Opal' was submitted to the All-America Selections and was awarded a Bronze Medal. Joseph Lent wrote of it in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Record..."In the garden 'Dark Opal' is a handsome compliment to rose, pink, light lavender or white petunias. The dark bronzy color of the foliage reflects an iridescent sheen whenever a breeze stirs it ,and provides a striking contrast to mass plantings of wax begonias,verbenas, zinnias, or similar bedding plants with flowers in pastel tones.Because of its neatly tailored, compact growth, it is an excellent for a low hedge along a walk or bordering a terrace or patio" Professor Lent didn't give it a rating as a kitchen herb but with its vibrant colour it sure adds a real zing to a salad or when used as a decorative garnish. Joseph M Lent is remembered at The University of Connecticut with a scholarship named in his honour.