Basil is one of those herbs for which the dried version is just not comparable to the fresh. I don't find dried basil to be of much value, but fresh basil is great as a pesto, on pizza, and used to finish tomato soups and marinara sauce.
Jim Crockett (Crockett's Victory Garden) notes that basil is relatively new to the scene in the US... but that book is from 1977. Today, we have several types of basil available to grow, mainly purple and green, curly and flat-leaved, and various flavors. Some of the more popular ones are Genovese and Thai basil, which do have different flavors.
There isn't much to growing basil although, like mint, there are many varieties to choose from. I tend toward Genovese and Thai basils, but different varieties can have wildly different flavors, so I'd like to try more with time.
Unlike some other members of the mint family, basil is an annual. Plant outside after your last frost - basil will not tolerate the frost very well. If it gets hit with a light frost, pick the dead parts off a few days after, once the extent of the damage is obvious. You can seed inside for an early start, perhaps 4-6 weeks before setting out.
Harvest basil by pinching off a stem right above a place where leaves shoot off - this will train basil to act more like a shrub than a single stem. Certainly don't pick just single leaves off - your basil will grow to look like a stick. Mr. Brown Thumb suggests that collecting basil seeds to replant next year is as simple as allowing the basil to produce flowers and collecting the seeds out of the flowers after they brown and die.
I don't fertilize. Just plant in good soil.
Jim Crockett's Victory Garden book suggests "soil that's been limed and manured and enriched with 5-10-5 fertilizer"
Basil can be frozen or dried -- you can freeze leaves on cookie sheets in a single layer, then transfer to an airtight Ziploc bag, or you can freeze in ice cube blocks. To do that, chop the leaves and stuff them in the tray, then fill with olive oil. When frozen, transfer to a Ziploc bag for storage. Alternatively, you could do the same with fully-prepared pesto (perhaps without the nuts, I don't know how well they freeze).
You can dry the leaves in a food dehydrator, but there is a significant loss of flavor.
Matt's Garden Notes:
Matt's 2013 Map
2012: Planted indoors and on our (sunny) deck. For some reason, the seeds I bought wouldn't start, so I just bought transplants. They performed well enough, but I did not have a 'bumper crop'.
2013: I transplanted about 12 basil plants, a mixture of genovese and thai basils, about 27 APR. They survived our late frosts by being covered by a floating row cover, receiving only minor damage. Pulled a packed cup of leaves off in early JUN.
Recipes using Basil:
Pork Meatball sandwiches
Freezer Spaghetti Sauce