A friend and I were talking about the wonderful, strong scents of various plants, when she said she sometimes thinks of lying down in a bed of basil and rolling in it.

No wonder Johnny’s Selected Seeds said basil is its most popular herb!

As my winter supply of frozen pesto diminishes, I, too, am dreaming of beds of fragrant Italian Ocimum basilicum, although in reality, half a dozen plants will be plenty to meet our pesto and salad needs. This is one crop that loves growing in the heat of our little hoop house, where it produces abundantly.

Basil is far more than a pesto plant, however. Asian varieties are used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, while sacred basil or holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum or O. sanctum) is sacred to Hindus, is used medicinally as a tea to aid digestion and may have anti-cancer properties, according to the Herb Society of America (herbsociety.org/basil/bmedic.php). You can even buy sacred basil tea, or tulsi, at Hannaford.

Then there are the citrus-scented basils, such as lemon basil and lime basil, which go well with fish and salads.

Greek basils have smaller leaves and softer stems than Italian basils but can be used in the same ways. Johnny’s said the Greek basils have antibacterial and antispasmodic properties, and can be applied to insect bites.

“Spicy Bush” basil or “Spicy Globe,” a Greek variety, grows in the shape of a small shrub and looks good when grown like a short hedge in an herb garden. It’s also perfect for growing in a pot.

The purple-leaved basils are gorgeous, lending a deep, glossy color to salads — and to bouquets. At this winter’s Farmer to Farmer Conference, Dr. Lois Berg Stack of the University of Maine suggested that cut-flower growers consider selling edible bouquets. “Put dill, marjoram, basil, chives and other herbs in a vase, separately or as fillers,” she said.

Basil dreams are plentiful in February, but this is also the time to wake up and order seeds. Since basil is a tender annual, it should not go into the garden before late May or early June, after the last spring frost. Seeds can be sown directly in the garden then, but I prefer to start plants indoors in mid-April to get a jump on the season. I transplant them to the garden around Memorial Day (or a couple of weeks earlier in the hoop house), pinch them back when they have a few sets of leaves in order to make them bushier, then enjoy their fragrance and flavor.

To keep plants from going to seed, I pinch off flower heads as they form — an easy job to do from July onward while harvesting leaves for pesto and for tomato and basil salads.

To enjoy basil today, here’s a simple recipe that another friend gave me: Spread soft goat cheese in the bottom of a baking dish, top it with pesto, and heat it in a 350-degree oven until it bubbles. Then serve it as a spread for bread or crackers.