Ocimum basilicum, also known as sweet basil, is a common ingredient in Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines. It serves as the foundation for pesto and gives salads, pasta, pizza, and other foods a unique flavor. This herb is widely used in Vietnamese, Thai, and Indonesian cooking.
Sweet basil can offer a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to the diet. Its essential oil might provide therapeutic advantages.
While various species of basil have different flavors and scents, sweet basil is widely accessible in supermarkets.
Tulsi, or holy basil, is a different variety of basil (Ocimum santum). This plant is used therapeutically in Tamil and Ayurvedic medicine, used mainly in Southeast Asia.
Basil scientific name
The word “basil” derives from the Latin basilius and the Greek word, βασιλικόv φυτόν (basilikón phutón), both of which means “royal/kingly plant,” presumably because ancient people once thought that the plant had been used to make royal perfumes. In French, Basil is also occasionally referred to as “l’herbe royale” (the royal herb).
The scientific name for the common basil people use is Ocimum basilicum.
Basil leaves are oppositely oriented along the square stems, shiny and oval, with smooth or slightly serrated margins that often cup somewhat. The terminal clusters of tiny, white to magenta-colored flowers are borne. The plant thrives in warm regions but is very frost-sensitive. When grown in humid environments, basil is particularly vulnerable to Fusarium wilt, blight, and downy mildew.
The dried flower head is where you can find the seeds. To gather basil seeds, use a fine sieve since the tiny, black seeds are challenging to handle. The brown and spent flower heads should be cut off and left to dry for a few days in a warm area. Select the old petals and chaff after crushing the heads over a colander.
The dried seed heads can also be placed in a paper bag and shaken before being crushed with a rolling pin, poured onto a shallow pan, and the chaff blown out. Given that they did not cross-pollinate, the basil seed you have today was grown at home and will be of the same strain as the parent plant.
How to plant basil
Basil is typically planted from transplants purchased from nurseries after being established in a greenhouse since it thrives in warm environments. To grow basil from seeds, you must start them around six weeks before your last spring frost. Basil is available for harvesting 60 to 90 days after seeding.
Basil can be prevented from flowering for as long as possible by pinching off the top sets of leaves as soon as the plant reaches a height of approximately 6 inches. If the plant blooms, it will quickly go to seed, stop growing bushy, and stop producing many fantastic leaves.
Even though sweet basil has a maximum height of 6 feet, it typically grows to 18 to 24 inches, or even less if you prune it frequently and don’t let it flower. Your basil will grow bushier and leafier if you regularly pinch it. There are also dwarf varieties that grow well in containers and are 6 inches tall.
Your plant’s size will vary according to the type, the growth environment, and the harvest quantity.
Growing basils in pots
You can use almost any sort of pot or container to grow basil. However, there are two successful guidelines: maintain wet soil, and avoid overcrowding your plants. Planting in large, deep pots makes it simple to adhere to both requirements because there is more soil for moisture retention, more space for several plants to be spread out, and better air circulation. If you want your containers to look full, you can plant them as closely as 6 to 8 inches apart, but it’s ideal for air circulation to space them 12 to 18 inches apart. Plants that are crowded are susceptible to fungus issues.
Check the soil regularly with your finger inserted up to the second knuckle, and water your container plants when the earth seems dry at this depth. Use high-quality potting soil with good drainage to prevent the roots from sitting in water. Ensure the container includes drainage holes as well. When filling the pot, add some organic plant food and thoroughly mix it if the soil is not already fertilized. After that, feed the plants with a diluted liquid fertilizer every two weeks.
Kinds of basils
There are various types of fresh basil, despite what you might think from the selection at most grocery stores. This summer, explore a new world of flavor and aroma at your neighborhood farmers’ market or garden center. And because it can withstand extreme heat, basil is extremely simple to grow, so think about including these plants in a raised bed or container garden. Here are varieties to look for:
The most popular kind is what you’ll find in those plastic containers at the grocery store. The two to three-inch long, oval-shaped leaves have a distinct peppery flavor and scent.
The leaves of sweet basil have a rounded cup shape and are a medium green tint. Mosquitoes have been known to be repelled by sweet basil.
This basil is best used for pesto and pasta recipes, basil oil, and basil sugar.
The traditional variety of basil grown in Italy has extra-large, dark green leaves. Another great basil to use in pestos and Italian meals are this one. Genovese basil has a flatter, sharper-pointed leaves than Sweet basil.
Some cultivars designate the plant as sweet Genovese basil by interchangeably using the terms Sweet and Genovese basil. The flavor of true Genovese is more robust and fragrant.
Thai basil has more delicate, black, pointed leaves and a hot, licorice-like flavor. Thai basil is a fantastic eye-catcher in the herb garden because of the deep purple flower heads and stalks that contrast beautifully with the deep green foliage.
Thai basil is frequently used in Asian cuisines like Spicy Sesame Noodles and Thai Basil Chicken. Unlike other types of basil, Thai basil maintains flavor at greater cooking temperatures.
Also known as purple basil, its beautiful rich maroon hue makes fantastic contrast in the herb garden.
The taste has a stronger clove flavor and is less sweet than some basil varieties. Purple basil has a strong aroma and can be steeped in oil or vinegar to give your food a stunning color.
The opal basil reaches a height of 18 inches. About 20% of the plants will be green or variegated, making for a lovely color mix. When completely grown, its broad leaves measure an average of one to a half inches. It takes 80 days to mature.
A basil variety that is increasingly becoming available in nearby nurseries and garden centers is lemon basil. Lemon basil grows between 12 and 18 inches tall with paler green leaves.
Crush a leaf between your fingers to release its delightful citrus fragrance. Nothing compares to the flavor of fresh lemon basil. Use lemon basil in teas, grilled vegetables, desserts, and marinades for fish or poultry.
Holy basil has a strong aroma that is spicy, sweet, and musky.
Cooking enhances the flavor because eating it fresh might be slightly bitter. Indian food uses holy basil, particularly in meat curries.
In South Asia, holy basil is also referred to as tulsi, which means the unique one. In Hinduism, it is a sacred plant. Holy Basil has numerous religious and medical applications. Holy basil is used to heal kidney problems and gastrointestinal disorders and increase blood flow.
Basil contains beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zeaxanthin, in addition to various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These antioxidants and their essential oils bring about basil’s good benefits on health. Choose fresh basil for the most significant benefits because drying renders these compounds inert.
Reduces oxidative stress
Basil has a lot of antioxidants. Limonene is present in lime and lemon basils, while eugenol is in sweet basil. These antioxidants help the body fight off free radicals that may otherwise harm cells and increase your risk of developing diseases like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Other antioxidants like anthocyanins and beta-carotene also play a role in this process.
Holy basil, also known as Tulsi, is slightly different from the sweet basil you use in your favorite dishes. However, some protection from several malignancies, including skin cancer, liver cancer, mouth cancer, and lung cancer, may be provided by its phytochemicals.
Regulates your blood sugar
If you have high blood sugar, including basil in your diet will be beneficial. In a study using diabetic rats, it was discovered that basil extract helped control blood sugar levels. Additionally, basil therapy may mitigate the long-term impact of blood sugar elevation.
Prevents heart disease
Eugenol in basil can block calcium channels and lower blood pressure. The herb’s essential oils might be able to lower your cholesterol and triglycerides. Magnesium, also found in basil, promotes blood flow by relaxing blood vessels and muscles.
Improves mental health
Tulsi is a popular herb in Ayurvedic treatment. According to research, it has numerous advantages, including enhancing your mental wellness. It contains substances that can lessen anxiety and sadness, improve your capacity for clear thinking, and reduce the danger of age-related memory loss.
Eugenol, linalool, and citronellol are a few of the essential oils in basil that can aid in reducing inflammation in the body. These anti-inflammatory qualities may help reduce the likelihood of inflammatory diseases like arthritis, gastrointestinal problems, and heart disease.
In culinary, basil adds flavor to various foods, including tomato-based dishes, salads, zucchini, eggplant, stuffing, soups, and sauces.
One of the most well-liked uses for basil is pesto, a creamy, green sauce. Although other dairy-free variants are available, it is traditionally made with crushed basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and pine nuts. Try using it as a sandwich spread or dip.
Garlic, marjoram, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, and sage go well with basil.
Take only the leaves—not the stem—of fresh basil. In general, it’s better to add fresh basil just before serving because heat can mute its flavor and dull its vibrant green hue (36).
Use only 1/3 of the recommended amount if a recipe asks for fresh basil, but you only have dried because dried basil is more potent.
Basil is more than simply a garnish; it transforms a dish with its fragrant, vibrant, and flavorful impact.
Garlic basil brown butter pasta
Pasta with butter, basil, garlic, and black pepper, served with fresh cherry tomatoes on top. It uses cupboard staples and is a garden-fresh spin on spaghetti that takes approximately 20 minutes to prepare.
- 1 pound of bucatini pasta or any pasta of your choice
- 6 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
- 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- crushed red pepper flakes
- kosher salt
- Cook pasta until al dente, as directed on the package, in a big pot of boiling salted water. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta boiling water just before draining. Drain.
- In a sizable skillet set over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the butter is browned and the garlic is golden and fragrant after adding the garlic and pepper. Add the pasta, remaining butter, pecorino, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water after lowering the heat to low until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat, add 3/4 cup basil, and stir.
- If necessary, thicken the sauce with additional pasta water.
- Combine the tomatoes, remaining 1/4 cup of basil, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and a dash of salt in a bowl.
- Divide the spaghetti among bowls and top with tomatoes to serve.
Basil-tomato grilled cheese
This simple grilled cheese sandwich is filled with summery flavors and prepared in the Italian way. In addition to being delicious, it is also easy to make, allowing you to continue your summertime outdoor activities.
- 8 slices Italian bread (3/4 inch thick)
- 8 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 2 large plum tomatoes, sliced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Layer mozzarella cheese and tomatoes on four slices of bread. Season with basil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add the remaining bread on top.
- Brush the outsides of each sandwich with the mixture of oil, Parmesan cheese, and garlic powder in a small bowl.
- Toast the sandwiches until the cheese has melted and they are golden brown on both sides in a pan over medium heat.
Tomato and basil soup
This hearty tomato soup with homemade basil pesto is terrific for the dead of winter.
- 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 5 soft sundried or SunBlush tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
- 3 x 400g cans of plum tomatoes
- 500ml turkey or vegetable stock
- 1 tsp sugar, any type or more to taste
- 142ml pot soured cream
- 125g pot fresh basil pesto
- basil leaves to serve
- Add garlic to melted butter or oil in a big pan and cook for a few minutes over low heat.
- Bring to a simmer after adding the sun-dried tomatoes, canned tomatoes, stock, sugar, and seasoning.
- Allow the soup to bubble for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have slightly broken down.
- Use a stick blender to mix while gradually adding half the pot of sour cream.
- Taste the dish, then season to taste, adding more sugar if necessary.
- Serve in bowls with about a tablespoon of the pesto swirled on top, some other soured cream, and basil leaves scattered throughout.
Basil for dogs
It’s okay for your dog to consume tiny amounts of basil. Its anti-inflammatory properties and high antioxidant content aid in the prevention of numerous illnesses, including cancer. Additionally, basil relaxes your agitated dog, prevents cellular damage, and lessens arthritis discomfort.