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Photo: Basil 'Genovese'

General description

Sweet Basil, Ocimum basilicum is a herbaceous member of the mint family. It is a delicate herb with a bold aroma and flavor, containing about 1% essential oil which has an intense, spicy-sweet, aroma and a slight anise-like undertone.

Often associated with Italian cuisine, basil is native to the region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Popular as a seasoning and easy to grow, basil is cultivated and used throughout the world. 

Plant requirements

Sow in average soil in full sun after danger of frost. Sow seeds about  6" apart and cover with 1/4" of fine soil. Firm lightly. and keep evenly moist. Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days. Harvest when buds begin to form up until frost.

Maintenance

Pinch or prune basil plants as they grow 4-6 tall to promote branching and bushiness. Never cut into the woody parts of a stem; plants won’t resprout

Pinch flower buds to keep plants from bolting. Once flowers form, leaf flavor changes. Pests to watch out for: aphids, slugs, Japanese beetles, and earwigs. Fungal diseases sometimes occur in humid climates, and root rot is common in poorly drained soil.

Practical use

Fresh Mediterranean basil leaf is a principal component of pesto Alla Genovese (green pesto) and also appears in pesto Rosso (red pesto), which includes tomatoes as well. The leaf is also used as a seasoning in tomato sauce, pizza, Insalata Caprese, salad dressing, and cooked vegetable dishes. Dried leaf, is found in the mixed spice called "Italian seasoning," and sometimes is a component of bouquet garni. Thai basils, which differ from Mediterranean varieties, are used in Thai green curry and as a garnish.

Basil is also used in desserts, including ice cream and sorbet, custard and zabaglione. The seeds are used to thicken the consistency of certain Thai foods. The essential oil is used in perfumes.

Since the oils in basil are highly volatile, it is best to add the herb near the end of the cooking process, so it will retain its maximum essence and flavor. 

Medicinal Use

Basil has anti-inflammatory properties that may provide relief for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel syndrome. It is a very good source of vitamin A since it is high in beta-carotene. An excellent source of vitamin K, basil also provides significant amounts of magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin C.

Properties

Height
1 - 40 cm
Soil type
Any
Sunlight
Full sun
Partial shade
PH
Neutral
Moisture
Well-drained
Moist but well-drained
Hardiness
Needs protection