BASIL – (Ocimum basilicum)
Generally Basil is an annual herb – growing in Spring and Summer. Some varieties are perennial – but they tend to be tougher and have coarser leaves – great for stews but not for salads. There are so many varieties from tiny-leaved Greek basils to huge frilly leaved ones. Tastes vary from sweet to anise, camphor, nutmeg and even lemon. Colours vary from bright and light green through to dark opal. Basils make great pot plants and do well in vertical garden panels.
Leaves, stems and flowers are used in cooking and as a tea. Prized for its fragrance it is also used in potpourris and sachets. The leaves can be dried for later use in cooking but they lose a lot of their special fragrance.
Fresh leaves can be used to make butters, preserved in oil and vinegar and layered in salt.
Add at the end of cooking to prevent the flavour being overpowering.
Basil has anti-microbial properties, especially against certain viruses.
Basil uplifts and clears the mind and head – a few drops of basil essential oil placed on a cloth and inhaled will revive mental fatigue.
The aroma is refreshing – in some circles it is known as an energy stimulant, purifying and decongesting and also calming the nerves.
Basil is commonly used as a digestive aid and an antiseptic.
Bunches of Basil hung in the kitchen are purported to discourage flies and the juice of the leaves rubbed onto the skin, to deter mosquitoes.
A tea made with the leaves can be used as a mouthwash for sores and gum problems.
Basil preserved in coarse salt can be used as a toning agent.
Basil can be grown from seed. Sow directly into pots or plug trays in late Spring through to Summer.
Don’t use seed trays as it has a long root system and does not like to be disturbed. They are very prone to cold weather and prefer warm to hot areas. Plant out into a rich, well drained soil in a warm and sunny position.
And harvest often to help promote a good bushy growth.
Basil is a great companion pant especially with tomatoes as it may help to ward off white fly.
Did you know?
Basil appears to have originated in India where it was known and used as a sacred herb. Since ancient times it has made its way over the whole world. It was also known in ancient Egypt where is was used in embalming and in ancient Greece and Rome – from where we find many strange legends about the herb.
The meaning of the name Ocimum seems to be lost to us but the name basilicum derives from the Greek (perhaps old Greek basilikon phuton) meaning ‘kingly herb’ or ‘of the royal house’. It was a very revered herb.
Also there seems to be a link to the (word “basilisk” a mythical serpent – which had a “royal crown”. Basil then became linked with “venomous beasts” – in medieval times there was the belief that by putting Basil under a pot it would create scorpions!
One application of the herb was to draw out poison from bites and stings.