Basil (Ocimum basilicum) of the Family Lamiaceae is also known as Albahaca, St. Joseph’s Wort, and Sweet Basil. It is a tender low-growing annual herb, originally native to tropical Asia. It grows to between twenty and sixty centimetres tall, with opposite, light green, silky leaves one and a half to five centimetres long and one to three centimetres broad.
It tastes somewhat like cloves, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell. Basil is very sensitive to cold, with best growth in hot, dry conditions.The word basil comes from the Greek âáóéëåõò, meaning “king”, as it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes speculations that basil may have been used in “some royal unguent, bath, or medicine“.
Basil is still considered the “king of herbs” by many cookery authors.Basil is the main ingredient for Italian Pesto. Pesto is usually green, thats from using green basil. But did you know that Basil comes in many colors and is used in Asian food as well? Quite often, Asian Basil is red stemmed and/ or has red flowers and has a spicy flavor. Green Basil, or Italian Basil has white flowers and is more sweet than spicy. “Genovese” Basil is the classic Italian Basil we associate with Pesto. “Thai Basil” is the common Asian equivalent.
There is a “lettuce leaf” type of basil names ” Dani” or simply “Lettuce Leaf Basil” that has aHUGE green leaves that are savoyed, or crinkly. There’s even an Eastern Indian Basil called “Holy Basil” that is quite unlike any basil I’ve encountered before. The classic Italian Basil also comes in Purple! “Red Rubin” is the name of the classic purple basil and is very much like Italian Basil, except in color.
This could mean that the Bistro Restaurant & Wine Bar may have Purple Pesto soon! Basil is a heat loving, full sun plant that needs air circulation. It is a natural companion to Tomatoes both in the garden and in the plate, as the flavors compliment each other. Basil is a beautiful plant and can be used as an ornamental cut flower in the garden, too. Basil is usually a short lived annual that cannot revive after harvesting, but there are some non flowering and woody types that can lived for years in a warm garden. Basil must be harvested frequently, before it flowers, or it will stop producing early.
By picking the tips where the flowers want to bloom before they bloom, you ensure a fuller plant with more to offer for longer. As usual with all my plants, I fertilize Basil weekly with fish emulsion and water. Do not over water basil, as it is prone to fungus and the flavor is better when the plant a bit on the dry side when harvesting. Try not to get the leaves wet. There are several fungus resistant strains of Basil, like “Nufar” which is an Italian type. As mentioned, “Holy Basil” is a very unusual basil with medicinal uses.
Its smell is a very mellow sweet and lingers like a fabulous perfume. “Holy Basil” is also fuzzy! I have has it as a “Tisane” type tea; put the fresh herb in a tea pot and pour boiling hot water on it and brew for a few minutes before serving. Its a relaxing and calming teas thats absolutely divine! All basils are some what medicinal. This site has a somewhat complete non scientific list of basil. Here is another link to a site that has many recipes using basil, both Italian and Asian.
Until next time,
For more on Basil go to Wikipedia