Basil, Sweet: (Ocimum basilicum)
basil, Bush: ( O. Minimum) Labiatae.
Propagation: seeds. Late Spring, early Summer.
Position: sunny sheltered.
Height: sweet basil, 75 cm ( 2 1/2 feet), bush basil, 30 cm ( 12 inches).
Parts used: Leaves and stems
There are different types of basil plants with varying scents, flavors and leaf coloration. Not all are mentioned here. One kind has foliage with a distinct aroma of camphor, which is interesting, but does not encourage one treat it! Another type has reddish stalks and coarse, shinny, green leaves which has a typical basil aroma and is usually meant for soups. But the leaves are too tough to be eaten raw. The ornamental type of basil is sweet basil, with rich purple leaves and pale pink flower. Sweet basil is an attractive garden plant and is highly perfumed. The actual flavor is not so nice and not recommended for cooking purposes. The old favorites sweet basil and bush basil are the best varieties to grow for kitchen gardens.
The foliage of both these varieties are tender, bright green, with a spicy, clove like aroma. Sweet basil leaves have a stronger perfume than the leaves of bush basil which are also much smaller. Both varieties have small, white, flowers in the autumn.
History and mythology:
Basil originated in India where it is regarded as a sacred herb. It was also know. In ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome and each country has many different legends concerning it. Basil's botanical name of basilicum has kingly associations as the scent was considered fit or a kings house. Some think the name comes from basilisk, a mythical serpent like creature. It was this association that lead it to be used for drawing out poison from stings and bites.
Basil needs warm conditions and it is best not to sow it too early in spring. Early summer is a good time to plant out seeds, after the frosts. Basil doesn't like the cold and any cold change will kill plants even if there is no frosts. Sow seeds directly into the ground in shallow drills making sure the soil is well broken up and as fine as possible. When the plant is 8 cm ( 3 inches) high, thin out to 30 cm ( 12 inches ). As the plants grow pinch out the centers to ensure spreading.
Harvesting and processing:
The best time is before the weather turns cold, around early autumn, before the cold makes the leaves limp and yellow. For fullest flavor cut long leafy stalks for drying just before the plant comes into flower. Spread the leaves out on a screen and dry naturally. Oven drying will scorch the leaves and is not a satisfactory way of drying basil. Do not hang them in bunches as the soft foliage will dry too slowly and spoil. Fresh basil can be chopped finely added with a little water and frozen in ice cubes.
Basil is often mixed with borage to make a tonic tea to revive lowered vitality. The dried leaves were once made into snuff as a remedy for headaches and colds.
Preserved basil leaves in alternate layers of fresh leaves, coarse sea salt and vegetable oil. Seal. The mixture is strained and the resulting fragrant oil is used as toning body rub.
Basil enlivens and stimulates vegetable growing especially tomatoes. It is said basil and rue do not grow well together.
Basil is a versatile herb used in many types of food. It has good association with tomatoes and tomatoes based dishes. Basil is suitable with eggplant, zucchini, marrow, squash and spinach. It is best added in the last half hour of cooking peas soup and lentil soup. Pit goes well with cream cheese, lifts green salads and sliced cucumbers. Basil is also excellent in all pasta dishes. Basil also goes well with poultry, veal, liver, kidneys, fish and shellfish. The leaves makes a savoury vinegar when the leaves are steeped in it for a few weeks.
To make you will need ¼ cup of pine nuts. 11/2 cups of fresh basil leaves. 2 small garlic cloves halved. ½ cup shredded Parmesan and about 7 tbs of olive oil.
Toast your pine nuts until lightly golden. Combine nuts, basil, garlic, oil and Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor and finely chop. Serve into a small bowl.
I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.