Basics of Basil
Whether you need help in clearing your mind, finding joy, letting go of fear, relieving fatigue when the mind is weak or indecisive, simply being around the Basil plant will do wonders. Basil or Rayhan is known for its restorative, fortifying, and gentle anti-depressive properties among those who practice aromatherapy.
Perhaps this is the reason why Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) said, “Whoever is presented with Rayhan should not refuse it, because it is easy to wear and has a good scent”. (Sahih Muslim)
Basil is as diverse as the cultures and regions around the globe. Strong scented Tulsi, with its purple flowers and religious significance, grows wild in South Asia. Large leaved Sweet Basil is a key ingredient of Italian Cuisine while the small lemony flavored, bright green leaves of Lime variety it wildly used in Thailand. On the other hand, Cinnamon flavored variety, grown for its delightful fragrance and delicate pink flowers contrasting with purple foliage, makes an excellent ornamental plant.
Some varieties that you can grow in your garden
Genovese: Its large, sweet and fragrant leaves make it ideal for making the famed Ligurian sauce, pesto. This Italian variety is, obviously, popular among cooks around the world.
Lime: It is full of lemony flavour and a very refreshing citrus scent. The leaves are lance shaped. This variety is used mainly in Thai cooking.
Cinnamon: This spicy Mexican variety is loaded with cinnamon flavour and fragrance. This is a very attractive plant to have in a garden.
Purple Ruffle: This variety is exactly what its name suggests. It is dark purple in colour and the shiny frilly leaves make the plant stand out in any garden.
Greek: This dwarf herb plant is from South East Asia. It has tiny green leaves and grows as little as 8 inches and spreads only some 6 to 8 inches. This makes it suitable for containers and low hedges.
Although the flowers are edible, I like to use them as cut flowers and place them around the house in vases. I find the scent extremely relaxing – for me it generates positivity.
Basil is also valued for its healing and medicinal qualities. Basil keeps the kidneys healthy and treats urinary problems. It helps ease coughs and colds and also brings down high body temperatures This wonderful herb also improves skin elasticity. Being rich in vitamin K, Basil not only strengthens our immune system but also our bones and prevents arthritis.
Grow your own Basil
This gentle plant is unbelievably easy to grow. Select which variety you want to grow – or grow as many as you like! It will grow well in temperatures above 10 to 15 degrees Celsius and a pH of 5 to 8, which simply means even a poorly fertilized soil will be good enough for basil to thrive.
You can directly sow basil into the container but for growing in the ground, it is best to start your seedlings.
Remember the following points for cultivation:
Sowing Depth: 1 cm
Thinning and planting distance : 20-22 cm
Harvesting: Any time
Storage: dried or frozen
It will grow well in a soil mix with 3 parts soil and 1 part compost or manure. Too much nitrogen will result in weak flavoured leaves. Keep them well watered.
Harvesting and storage
This herb is best when used fresh in Mediterranean dishes. However, if you have an extra supply of home grown basil, you can dry it in the sun and store it in an airtight container. Picking leaves frequently will encourage new growth, make for bushy plants and avoid woody stems.
To increase your growing season, do not let the basil go to flower. Pinch out the buds. If you do want to save seeds or use them in your food, you can let it bloom and then dry out. Collect the dried flower stems and shake in a paper bag to collect the seeds.
A tablespoon of Basil seed has 22 calories and if mixed in smoothies or drinks assists in digestion and keeps you full for a longer time. This is the reason why weight-watchers include these wonderful seeds in their diets.
Teas as a natural cure
Boil basil leaves with ginger to make a soothing tea for cold and flu.
Holy basil leaves boiled with pepper and honey make for a comforting drink. This is most useful as a remedy to help with malaria and fever.
Tomato and Basil Sauce
This is the best thing you can make with your home grown sweet basil! Use this delightfully fresh sauce in pastas or pizzas.
Basil is always present in my garden. I especially love this humble herb because when it blooms, bees gather around it and that is something I look forward to. Recently, I discovered a beehive on a mango tree at our school garden, where we have some lime basil growing. It is always surrounded by buzzing bees that fly back and forth from the sweet scented flowers to the hive hanging on a mango tree branch right next to it.
There is more than one purpose for this plant in your garden. To experience all the blessings that come with this herb, you must grow a plant or two right away!