Basil, a Great Herb - Some Interesting Information and Facts
Basil is also known as Ocimum basilicum. It is part of the Labiatae family.
You can see in the picture, taken just today of some newer basil growing in my herb garden. I grew these from seeds that were started indoors, then transplanted outside. I just love the smell of the leaves.
Basil is popular in many cultures, but especially used in Mediterranean cuisines. It has been widely used since ancient times. For example, we know there were basil remains, found in an ancient Egyptian burial site. It would be an interesting study to learn why they buried some people with basil, among many other things.
Oil from basil has been used in perfumes, soaps, cosmetics and liqueurs. Some have even claimed that the plant can be used for insect repellent.
Basil has been used to soothe pain, and even help treat vomiting. I find it fascinating, that basil has been shown to be good for nervous stress and headaches.
There are so many dishes that benefit from the addition of basil. Its hard really to know where to begin. I do know that whenever I make spaghetti sauce (every week), I use a small palm full of dried basil if there is no fresh on hand. I use many other spices as well, but basil is one of predominant in this dish. We just love basil in our house. It is also good, with a tomato mozzarella salad.
I have one happy memory from a few years ago, where a friend and I came into some basil that people were selling then giving away. They gave us a whole bunch, and she invited me over to make pesto on a Sunday afternoon. When you have lots of basil, pesto is a good option!
Basil enjoys growing in a rich, moist soil. It prefers full sun to perform its best, and needs to be sheltered if there should be cold winds that could bother it. One helpful tip I learned and practice myself regularly, is to notice when my basil is beginning to grow flower buds. If you hope to get more basil leaves, you need to pinch off, or break off that little stem. Otherwise, the energy of the plant is expended on flowers and seed making. If you pinch them off, or cut them, it spends its energies into making more of the basil leaves you want. I do let mine flower and go to seed at the end of the growing season. Maybe I can get lucky this year, and harvest the seeds too, not just the leaves. This is fun to do and share with others as well. Having fresh basil on hand is wonderful.
With the many variations of basil out there, you are bound to find something you like. Whether fresh or dried, basil is an ingredient I hope to always have on hand.