Posted by: briellethefirst | March 6, 2011

Basil


The happy coincidence of a dead tree and a really bad lawn lead me to put an herb garden into the back yard of the house we rented in Florida. I immediately made wish lists of wonderful herbs, veggies and flowers we could grow. Firm reminders from my husband of space limitations and our lack of ownership somewhat curbed my kid-in-a-candyshop impulses and forced me to plan my space, companion plants and crop rotation carefully. While I did continue to plan carefully I was very good at finding new placed to tuck in another bed of herbs, strawberries or flowers. There were several disasters and successes but we’re still learning after all these years since that’s all part of gardening. I’m now living happily in Arizona in a house I own without the constraints (or assistance) of a husband, so my garden is growing as fast as the fiendishly hot, dry summers and my (tired) back and friends will allow.

Basil

Basil

Ocimum basilicum is my favourite herb, both in the kitchen and in the garden. Leaf miners devastated my first harvest of Basil all those years ago. The next time I planted it I was careful to pick and destroy any affected leaves and was rewarded with a decent harvest. They didn’t do as much damage to the Lemon Basil and hardly noticed the Clove Basil. The other scented varieties are similarly unattractive to the little vandals. Caterpillars like Basil, too, but not as much as other plants and a little Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) makes them go away. Bees like Basil flowers and will fly on to pollinate other plants in the garden, making a bigger harvest. As long as it has full sun and enough water it grows well despite any abuse I’ve inflicted upon it. It did well in the sandy soil of Florida and has done very well in the clay under my grape arbour. It is a very vigorous annual that readily re-seeds itself.

I never thought I could have too much Basil but after the first season volunteers were everywhere! The ones in the yard were no problem, just roll over ’em as you mow the grass and enjoy the perfume. The became a weed in the garden in Florida but not so much here, maybe because the ground is harder? Be careful to clip the seed heads off before they’re fully ripe to keep the plants growing longer since the whole point of flowers is to make seeds that will turn into more baby Basil plants.

Basil in bloom

Basil in bloom

Besides, the chickens like the clippings and repay me with extra yummy eggs.

In the early ’90s I tried two scented varieties, Sacred Basil (Tulsi) and Lemon Basil. The first smells like cloves and has smaller leaves and lavender flowers and the lemon has white flowers. Later I tried Licorice ans Cinnamon Basils. They smelled nicely of their names and were wonderful to use but only the Tulsi was robust and in fact it acted like a tender perennial and grew to about 3x3x3 feet! One variety I grew and loved was Globe Basil. It grew into small, rounded mounds about 8 inches high that looked like they’d been pruned. A perfect little surprise accent for flower gardens and they can be used in the kitchen, too. There are even varieties with ruffled and purple and variegated and purple-ruffled leaves, so we probably won’t be getting bored with basil in the garden any time soon.

Out of the garden and in the house there are lots of uses for Basil: dry and moist potpourris, sachets, perfumes, incense, herb beads, teas and cooking. I use it fresh or dried in almost everything: soups, stews, breads, sauces dredging flour for roasts…just toss it in, especially if tomatoes are part of the recipe. Because it’s on the sweet side a little is a surprisingly nice addition to breads, teas and deserts-especially the flavoured varieties. Experiment and you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts.

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Responses

  1. Greeeeeeeeat Blog Love the Infomation you have provided me .

  2. I love basil. The only type I do not really enjoy the flavor of is the Thai basil that tastes like licorice.

    • I haven’t used Thai Basil in anything but potpourri. I love having them in the garden even if I don’t cook with them.


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