day 132 – Basil

Basil seedlings sown in soil


Ocimum basilicum –botanical name

Alphabetically in English, it’s the first of my twelve must haves.

Basileus means “kingly” in Greek.  In France it is named the herbe royale.

It is believed basil came from India and then spread through the world.  In India and Thailand, where Hindu and Buddhist religions prevail, basil is considered “the king of herbs”.

It is a sacred herb, dedicated to Krishna in Hindu.  In fact, my first mala beads were threaded through Holy Basil seeds.  The leaves are scattered around temples in India and Thailand.  They are laid on the chest of the dead in Hindu tradition, believed to be powerful protection for the spirit on its journey into re-incarnation.

The scent of basil is reminiscent of mint, cloves and thyme, according to some herbalists.  It’s taste is spirited, pungent and keenly appetizing.  It has a peppery, sweet and refreshing flavor all at the same time.

It marries well with tomatoes and garlic.  But don’t be afraid of trying it in different dishes, just make sure to add it towards the end if you are cooking, otherwise it’s a delight raw in any salad.

There are many different cultivars to try; Thai or Licorice basil, Lemon basil, Cinnamon basil and Purple Leaf to name a few.  Each has it’s own nuance and uses.


Basil seedlings started hydroponically in water

Wherever you live, when you can plant your tomatoes in the ground safely, without danger of frost, that’s when it is safe to plant your basil.  Basil loves water, it is a thirsty plant, but don’t overdo it.  They hate to be transplanted so do it only once and immediately water with a cup of cooled chamomile tea so the roots don’t go into shock – just a gardener’s tip.  Plant them in sunshine or even in part sun.  The leaves are delicate and tend to scorch.  Watch for green slugs on the underside of mature leaves and just pick them off or if you are squeamish, like me, just cut the whole leaf off with scissors and place the slug in your garbage.

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