Backyard Gardening: Basil


Basil has got to be one of my FAVORITE herbs. For me, it's easy and incredibly cheap to grow and harvest, lasts all growing season and is really tasty!

Not many people consider basil a medicinal herb...well, I'm here to change the way you look at this beautiful multi-talented plant.

Botanical Name: Ocimum basilicum

Common Name: Italian Basil, Sweet Basil

Sun Exposure: Full Sun Soil Type: Loamy, well drained Hardiness Zone: 4-10 Feeder Type: Heavy, organic matter

Genus: Ocimum Family: Lamiaceae, mint family Type: Herb, annual

Companions: Tomato, peppers, oregano, petunias, asparagus Adversaries: Rue – Ruta graveolens, sage Constituents: Aromatic volatile camphoraceous oil Actions: Antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, stomachic, vermifuge, galactagogoue, refrigerant, expectorant

Medicinal Uses:

Brain & Nervous System - Headaches (rub on temples) - Mild nervous disorders

- Improves memory & mental fatigue

- Head colds (use as tea) - Uplifts mood/anti-depressant stimulates adrenal cortex to regulate natural response to stress

Gastrointestinal - Constipation & cramps - Vomiting, nausea - Gastric/Intestinal catarrh, diarrhea, settles the stomach

- Improves appetite

- Intestinal parasites

Respiratory Tract

- Colds, fevers - Whopping cough

- Fights bronchitis

- Hay fever

Gynaecological

- Cleanse womb & expel afterbirth

- Regulate menstrual cycle

Other - Draws out poisons, insect bits, skin infection

- Insect repellent

- Anti-inflammatory

- Stimulate immune system

- Jet lag

- Lowers uric acid responsible for arthritis & gout as well as the pain and inflammation associated with this

Nerding out moment: Basil has large quantities of something called E-Beta-CaryoPhyllene or BCP. This active ingredient stimulates the body's naturally cannabinoid receptors that in turn block inflammation that is associated with arthritis. As a result, it's been proposed that basil may be useful in treating diseases like arthritis and/or bowel disease.

Preparations:

There are TONS of preparations for basil. Besides making a beautiful caprese salad here are a few more preparations:

- Basil Infusion: Enjoy hot or cold. Add freshly muddled basil leaves, strawberries, blueberries, lemon and ice!

- Tincture

- Make a quick poultice for bug bites or warts (applied daily)

- Make a hummus, bruschetta, soup, etc. Seriously the options are endless!!

Cautions: No known interactions

Fun Fact: There is an estimated 50 – 150 species of basil. Thai basil, purple basil, lemon basil are a few more commonly known basils

Description:

  • Fragrant and easy to grow

  • Stronger when used fresh

  • Used as a culinary herb and is well known in Italian cuisine

  • Full plump light green leaves, hardy stem and small white or purple stacked flowers depending on species

Planting:

  • Start seeds indoors 6 weeks before last frost with plenty of sun

  • Outdoors 6-8 hours of sun with moist and well-draining soil – Thrives in pots, water frequently

  • Plant seedlings in ground ¼ inch deep in high heat day time.

  • Soil should be around 21ºC for best growth

  • Plant 10-12 inches apart as they will grow about 12 – 51 inches in height

  • Tomatoes are great companions to repel pests such as flies and mosquitoes

  • Plant away from high traffic areas if herb is intended to be used in cooking

Pests/Disease:

  • Pests: Aphids/Plant lice, flea beetle, Janpanese beetle, nematodes, leafminers, slugs/snails

  • Bacterial and fungal leaf, stem and root diseases:

  • IE: Fusarium wilt, pythium (root rot), botrytis cinerea/gray mold, black spot, etc.

Care:

  • Keep soil moist & ensure drainage. For hotter areas use mulch to keep the soil moist

  • Pinching where new growth is starting will encourage growth

  • Let plant recover after harvest before doing it again

  • Pinch off the center shoot after 6 weeks to deter premature flowering. If flower heads do appear, remove from plant

  • Yellow leaves indicate stress. Could be too much water/fertilizer – monitor intake

Harvest/Storage:

  • 60- 90 days. Propagate from cuttings, store in water until root develops

  • Freeze and store basil by rolling several freshly washed and dried leaves together into a cylinder shape, wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer bag for individual servings

  • Drying basil: Remove leaves from stem and place in ventilated shaded area for 3-4 days until completely dry. If not dry, place leaves in oven on the lowest setting with the door open. Turn leaves and check on them frequently until fully dry

So there you have it! Plant that basil!!!!

Ninetta (Nina) Savino

Herbalist

References:

  • Giacomo (1934) & Guisippinna Savino (1938). Born in Pietrapertosa, Potenza, Italy

  • Wikipedia (2014, September 13), Basil. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil

  • Hoffmann, David. “Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine”, (2010-12-15), p.337, 577, 589

  • The Old Farmer’s Almanac (2014, September 11), Basil. Retrieved from www.almanac.com/plant/basil

Herb Wisdom (2016, April 19), Basil.

Retrieved from http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-basil.html

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