Basil



Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a tender low-growing herbs in the mint family Lamiaceae. It is native to Iran, India, and other tropical regions of Asia. Basil is considered the 'King of Herbs' by many cookery authors.

Basil is an important culinary herb used in Italian cuisine, and also in Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The plant has a strong, pungent and sweet smell. There are many varieties of basils, such as sweet basil, Thai basil, lemon basil and holy basil. The one that used in Italian cuisine is called Sweet Basil and is a main ingredient in pesto, a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce.

Thai basil is a cultivar of Ocimum basilicum, and has a more assertive taste than the sweet basil. The herb has small leaves, purple stems and a subtle licorice or mint flavor.

Lemon Basil is a hybrid between basil (Ocimum basilicum) and African basil (Ocimum americanum). It is a herb grown primarily in northeastern Africa and southern Asia. It has narrower leaves and strong fragrant lemon scent because it contains a chemical called citral. Seeds are formed and dry on the plant after flowering. This herb is a popular herb in Lao, Indonesian, Thai, Arabian and Persian cuisines.

Holy basil or better known as tulsi or tulasi (Ocimum tenuiflorum), is an aromatic plant cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. It is well-known in South Asia. There are two main types cultivated in India, green-leaved (Sri or Lakshmi tulsi) and purple-leaved (Krishna tulsi). Holy basil has leaves are petioles, ovate and slightly toothed. Flowers are purplish in elongated racemes in close whorls.

Basil is commonly used fresh in cooked recipes, usually added last to the dish as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. Fresh herbs can be kept in refrigerator for a short time or for a longer period of time in freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. Dried herb loses much of its flavor, and it also tastes very different from the fresh ones, with a very weak coumarin flavor, like hay. Basil is sometimes used with fresh fruits and in fruit jams and sauces.

The seeds of several varieties of basil, when soaked in water, become gelatinous, and are used in drinks and desserts such as falooda or sherbet. The seeds are also used for their medicinal properties in Ayurveda.

Basil can grow between 30-130 cm tall, with opposite, light green and silky leaves 3-11 cm long and 1-6 cm wide. It bears small, white flowers in terminal spike. Basil grows best in hot, dry and well-drained soil. Although it grows best outdoors, it can be planted indoors in a pot. Yellow leaves towards the the bottom of the plants indicates that it needs more sunlight or less fertilizer.

Propagation of basil is by seeds, cuttings, or short cuttings suspended for two weeks or so in water until roots develop. Basil suffers from several diseases such as Furasium wilt (soil-borne fungal disease), gray mold (caused by Botrytis cinerea) and black spot (caused by fungi genus Colletotrichum).

Ocimum basilicumOcimum basilicum
Author: Mikrolit' (Copyleft)

Flower of Ocimum basilicumFlower of Ocimum basilicum
Author: Wildfeuer (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic)

Thai BasilThai Basil
Author: Risacher (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic)

Lemon BasilLemon Basil
Author: Kembangraps (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Holy BasilHoly Basil
Author: GourangaUK (public domain)

Basil seedsBasil seeds
Author: BetacommandBot (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0-unported)

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