Basil the Herb - What
is Special About it?
Basil is leafy herb that
used in many recipes and is a
herb that goes really well with tomatoes. Originally from India, today
basil is grown everywhere, and well used in Italian cooking. Once it
was considered to be a royal plant, and was only cut by the sovereign
with a golden sickle. I can tell you I don't cut my basil with a golden
sickle, but I do grow it and love having it salads with tomatoes and
Although there are more than 50 varieties,
more people are familiar with bush, purple, and sweet basil.
Of these 3, sweet basil is probably the most popular for cooking and
drying, as bush basil has very small leaves, and purple basil has
foliage that is pretty to look at but doesn't have much flavor.
Growing basil at home is
as in the right conditions it just grows and grows.
It is an annual, and although I prefer growning basil from
seed, you can also buy basil plants and transplant them into your
gardens, or just grow your basil in containers indoors as a windowsill
Basil is usually planted in spring
after the frosts have passed. It will grow in light, well drained soil,
even sandy soil, as long as it's in a warm, sunny place.
I have to confess that this year I really struggled with my basil, but
then that was because
the plants that I bought were not very strong. In addition, after I had
it out, we had a cold snap, so it did struggle a bit.
In the end it was a "kill or cure" method of dealing with it because I
was so fed up
at how sad it was looking day after day.
after cleaning out the fireplace one day
I spread some fire ashes around the plants and watered it in.
Because wood ash is an excellent source of potassium for plants, which
is needed for the strengthening of the cell walls, the basil soon took
off and hasn't looked back!
Sow it in a seedbox and transplant it later, or simply plant it
straight into the garden.
If you are going to sow basil seeds directly into the soil, sow the
seeds 1/4 inch deep and about 12 - 18 inches apart as basil plants
out. As the plants grow, nip off the tips and the plant will grow into
a well-formed bush.
If you sow basil seed in early spring you
may be able to to get a second crop by cutting the stem of the plant by
leaving 3 inch stalks before the buds have opened.
Preserving and Storing
If you want
basil all year around there are 2 ways of doing this
First, you can
dry your own basil. Select which plants you want to dry and cut them
off at the stems. Do this before the plants begin to flower and while
the leaves are still a good green color.
Next gently wash the
plants with a fine spray to rid of any dirt and dust. Place on some
paper toweling to get rid of excess water and then lay the basil out in
a shady area outside until all the water has dried off.
the basil in small bunches using twine, string or raffia and hang them
upside down in a cool, dry room for 3 weeks.
leaves have dried out, pack firmly into screw-top jars and pour enough
olive oil to cover all the leaves. Screw on the lid, and store in a
cool place, even the fridge is fine. Use when needed.
can also freeze basil leaves. However, preserving the leaves like this
they will lose their fresh texture and will darken in color.
store this versatile herb wrap the cut stems in a layer of damp kitchen
paper and keep in the vegetable drawer of the fridge for up to 2 days.
as a Medicinal Herb
is regarded as a powerful tonic, both when eaten raw and when taken as
an infusion. A basil infusion is generally taken if you have nausea and
It can also be used on its own or with other herbs such as sage,
peppermint or lavender flowers in a facial steam.
Basil is a herb that
features a lot in Italian cooking and an essential ingredient in pesto.
With all the varieties of basil the one that everyone is more
familiar with in cooking is the sweet basil.
Basil is a good marriage with tomatoes, but it is also successfully
with many other dishes. It can be added to salads, used to flavor salad
dressings, cottage cheese, cooked with eggs and sprinkled over pizzas.
Just remember to add the basil as the last thing to the meal
Here's a Pesto Recipe for you: (4-6 servings)
(4 oz) basil leaves in a mortar with 25 g (1 oz) pine nuts, 2 peeled
cloves of garlic, and a large pinch of coarse salt. Crush all to a
paste with a pestle. Now add 50 g (2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese and
work into the basil mixture. Gradually add 120 ml (4 fl oz)
virgin olive oil. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon to make a thick,
creamy sauce. This pesto will keep in a closed jar for up to
days in the fridge.
as an Insect
regarded as a good companion plant for tomatoes, keeping pests away and
the plants disease free. Basil also repels flies and mosquitoes, so
grow it near your doors and outdoor areas.
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