Common name: basil
Botanical names: Ocimum basilicum, .Ocimum sanctum , Ocimum crispum,, Ocimum minimum
Origin: India, Central America
‘’These tender annuals grow one to 21/2 feet tall, with square stems and opposite leaves. Basil may have either green or purple-red soft-textured leaves, and spikes of small whitish or lavender flowers. In India basil is considered a holy herb. In Italy it is a love gift, and in Romania it is an engagement token. In Greece the connotation is less romantic there basil is a symbol of death and hatred. Basil has the distinction of being fragrant at all stages of its development. The nomenclature of Ocimum species and varieties is complicated and confusing and in several instances. Species like O. sanctum L. (tulsi), O. gratissimum (Ram Tulsi), O. canum (Dulal Tulsi), O. basilicum (Ban Tulsi), O. kilimandscharicum Guerke (Kapoor Tulsi), O. camphora and O. micranthum are examples of known important species of the genus which grow in different parts of the world and are known to have medicinal properties The plants are predominantly herbs, shrubs or under importance shrubs, annuals or perennials in habit. O. sanctum has widest distribution which covers the entire Indian sub-continent, ascending upto 1800 m in the Himalayas and in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This plant can occupy a wide range of habitats.
Where and when to grow
Like most herbs, basil can be grown quite easily anywhere in the United States. It prefers a limate that does not run to extremes of temperatures, but it tolerates heat better than cold. The first fall frost will kill the plant. It’s grown from seed or transplants, and you can plant either in spring, a week or two after your area’s average date of last frost. Basil makes a charming houseplant — put It in a sunny window.
How to plant
Basil needs a well-drained soil that’s high in organic matter. It does well in soil that many other plants wouldn’t tolerate; and too-fertile soil is actually a disadvantage, because it encourages lush foliage but a low oil content, which affects the aromatic quality of the herb. If you grow from seed, sow the seed a quarter inch deep in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. When the seedlings are growing strongly, thin them to stand four to six inches apart. A sunny spot is best, but basil will tolerate light shade. Basil seeds itself and will often produce good plants if the soil is not disturbed too much in the spring. Using transplants in the spring will mean you can harvest
your basil sooner. You can also buy a healthy plant from a nursery or farmers’ market stand and plant that. If you want to grow basil indoors, put it in a sunny window or under lights.
Fertilizing and watering
Do not fertilize basil overfertilizing is a disadvantage to most aromatic herbs. If the soil is very acid, sweeten it with some lime. Otherwise, let it be. Detailed information on fertilizingis given in “Spadework: The Essential Soil” in Parti. If basil needs water the leavel will wilt — give it enough water to prevent this.
Pinch off the terminal shoots to encourage branching and slow down flower production. If youdon’t, the plants will get tall and leggy-
Basil has no serious pest problems. Diseases Basil has no serious disease problems.
When and how to harvest
Pick the basil as you need it by cutting a few inches off the top. This will encourage the plant to become bushy instead of going to flower.
Storing and preserving
Store the crushed dry leaves in an airtight container. You can also freeze the leaves.
Suggestions Fresh basil gives a wonderful flavor to sliced tomatoes dressed with a little oil and lemon juice, and it’s good in other salads, too. Fresh basil is the essentialingredient in pesto, a luxuriously aromatic pasta dish. You can alsouse the leaves — fresh or dried —with fish, game and meat dishes, on eggs, and in stews and sauces. Try herbed butter with basil, or make basil vinegar.