Herbs

Basil

Scientific Classification

Kingdom:   Plantae
(unranked):   Angiosperms
Order:    Lamiales
Family:    Lamiaceae
Genus:    Ocimum
Species:    O. basilicum
Binomial name:    Ocimum basilicum

Basil, Sweet Basil or Thai Basil is the general name given to the culinary herb Ocimum basililicum.They belong to the group Laniaceae (mints), In countries where the mother tongue is English they at times call them”St. Joseph’s wort.”

Anatomy

Sweet basil is a yearly flowering bush, it grows to a height of one to two feet, and have  glossy opposite leaves for foliage. Its flowers are white and spiky. We use the basil leaves for cooking, it gives out its anise (licorice) aroma to the dishes.

Habitat

India has cultivated Basil for over 5,000 years; its original habitat is India.

How to Grow Basil at Home

Soil for Planting

Basil is a local Mediterranean herbaceous plant; it prefers full sunlight (i.e. about 8 hours, according to the availability). Use a properly drained and damp soil enriched with organic material, old manure and/or compost. Be certain your external location receives total sunlight in the day (around 6 to 8 hours).

Planting

When the ground is warm after frost, plant your seeds in your garden, begin your indoor planting in separate pots or purchase bedding plants. In case you begin planting the seeds indoors, use a heating cable to assist in warming up the soil, because these are tropical plants and do not yield in the  cold.

Watering

Do not water your basil seedlings in excess; they are likely to get affected with “damping off” disease.

Temperature and Humidity

The Basil plant loves heat. Do not worry about temperature when planting your basil seeds provided you maintain the temperature to 70°F at day and 50°F at night. 3-4 weeks before the end of spring (frost date), begin planting your seeds indoors. Different from other Mediterranean herbs, basil prefers a soil that is rich and not dry.

Care

Give your basil enough of water. Once your soil is warm, mulch it to preserve moisture.

Pests and Pesticides

Basil is prone to a variety of fungal diseases, such as black spot, Fusarium wilt, and gray mold and the damping-off disease  affects seedlings. It is possible to get over these diseases by avoiding congesting the plant and not rushing to plant outside till the soil is warm. Hand pick the Japanese beetle pests, and  prevent your plants from becoming a skeleton.

Harvest Month and Storage

When the leaves are large enough for usage, start consuming them. Gather the leaves from the branch tips cutting them many inches. Carefully handle the basils; if not the foliage gets discolored and darkened.

Dry your basil leaves in the air, in separated bunches. However, freezing them helps to keep the flavor. In order to freeze the basil, prepare the washed leaves into a puree in a food processor or blender; make the puree thick but flowing, by gradually adding water. Freeze the content in ice-cube trays, remove them from the tray pack them in labeled freezer bags for later use in soups, sauces and pesto. (Pesto is a creamy mixture of grated cheese, purred basil, garlic and olive oil). Putting a layer of olive oil on its top helps retain its freshness in the refrigerator for a pretty long period.

Varieties

Ocimum basilicum, occurs in several varieties and many connected varieties or hybrid species named basil. Italian foods  use the typical variety known as sweet basil. Asians use Thai  basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) and lemon basil. Generally,basil is a yearly flowering plant, because a few are  perennials.In the tropics, where the climate is warm, this includes a cultivar and holy basil called ‘African Blue’

 

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