Basil is a highly fragrant plant whose leaves are used as a seasoning herb for many different types of foods. There are more than 60 varieties of basil, all of which differ somewhat in appearance and taste. While the taste of sweet basil is bright and pungent, other varieties also offer unique tastes: lemon basil, anise basil and cinnamon basil all have flavors that subtly reflect their name.
Basil now grows in many regions throughout the world, but it was first native to
India, Asia and Africa.
It is prominently featured in varied cuisines throughout the world including
Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian. The name "basil" is derived
from the old Greek word basilikohn, which means "royal,"
reflecting that ancient culture's attitudes towards an herb that they held to
be very noble and sacred. The tradition of reverence of basil has continued in
other cultures. In India,
basil was cherished as an icon of hospitality, while in , it was a
symbol of love. Italy
My main tips for growing basil are:
Well-drained soil is good soil for basil. If you grow yours in containers like I do, the container itself needs to have good drainage holes.
Keep the temperature fairly warm with lots of sunlight (at least six hours a day). Basil likes warmer temperatures, so move your pots to take advantage of the sun.
Fertilize the soil about once a month. Organic or slow-release fertilizers (like compost tea) are best for basil. Just don't fertilize it when it is cold.
Water often in hot weather. I watered once a day when the temperatures got really hot this summer. But in more normal conditions, I water every other day or so. Check your soil to make sure it isn't getting dry either way.
Prune! Then prune it some more! Pruning leads to more basil. Start pruning the top leaves at around six inches tall and continue to prune as it gets bushier. Also, pinch off any flowers that you see so they don't go to seed. That will lead to bland and sparse plants.
Keep insects away. If pests are bugging your plants, I've heard using liquid seaweed as a fertilizer will help.
Basil not only tastes amazing it also has health benefits. The unique array of active constituents called flavonoids found in basil provide protection at the cellular level. Orientin andvicenin are two water-soluble flavonoids that have been of particular interest in basil, and in studies on human white blood cells; these components of basil protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. In addition, basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth.
The eugenol component of basil's volatile oils has been the subject of extensive study, since this substance can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase. Many non-steriodal over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications including aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as the commonly used medicine acetaminophen, work by inhibiting this same enzyme. This enzyme-inhibiting effect of the eugenol in basil qualifies basil as an "anti-inflammatory" food that can provide important healing benefits along with symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.
As pretty as the Basil flowers are, PRUNE them!