Basil – The Herb King
Basil is the king of herbs. The name “basil” comes from the Greek word “basileus” which literally means king. No herb garden is complete without basil.
The bush basil is the small leafed sweet basil. It is the common basil grown in pots. One example of small leafed basil is the “Green Globe”.
Large leafed sweet basils include the Napolitano, popularly called “Lettuce Basil” or “Italian”. These are most often used in Italian cooking.
The Mammoth basil is the giant within the basil species. The leaves of the Mammoth basil can be up to 15 cm long making them great to use as food wraps.
There are also basil plants with colored leaves. The “Dark Opel” is one example with its purple-black leaves.
Lemon scented basil plants and cinnamon scented basil plants are found in the huge varieties of basil plants.
Basil plants need plenty of sun and well drained soil. To ensure a bushier plant you need to regularly pinch off the top leaves.
If you have any tomato plants make sure you plant basil with your tomato plants. The basil will help protect your tomato plants by reducing the hornworm threat.
Basil planted indoors in pots work very well. Having a basil plant close by a door will assist in preventing flies coming inside. Flies do not like basil. Taking this into consideration you may want to use basil in a nice pot as a centerpiece the next time you eat outdoors.
Fresh basil leaves should be pinched off using your fingers. If you use a knife the leaves of the basil may darken and bruise.
Young basil leaves taste the best. Older leaves have a more coarse taste.
Basil leaves will lose their flavor when cooked for too long. The basil leaves will also turn brown if you let them cook together with your dish. For the best results add some fresh basil leaves just before serving your meal.
Use the basil leaves as garnish on your tomato dishes. It tastes delicious! Basil leaves also often used on any pasta dishes, soups, salads and chicken dishes.
Basil is the vital ingredient in the popular and lovely Italian sauce called pesto. Pesto consists of basil leaves, pine nuts (slightly toasted), grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (or parmesan), crushed garlic and olive oil. Some people prefer walnuts instead of pine nuts.
Remember to use enough olive oil or else the pesto mixture may oxidize.
You can freeze basil pesto in ice-cube trays.
In herbal remedies basil tea is used to ease nervousness and stress.
Basil can have a positive effect in controlling diabetes as well as asthma.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding be careful only to use the normal amounts of basil as required in cooking recipes. Do not go overboard and exaggerate the intake of basil before consulting your doctor.
Folklore, Myth and Superstition
An old European superstition tells us that basil should be grown in the garden to ensure harmony in the home.
In Ancient Rome basil was used as a remedy to help relieve gas.
Holy Basil – Tulsi/Tulasi
Tulsi basil (also spelled Tulasi) is known as Holy Basil is important and sacred in India. A Tulsi plant is often planted in the courtyard of a Hindu home. It is believed that careful caring for and devotion to the Tulsi plant will help people absolve their sins. Where there is a Tulsi plant the gods are present.
It is common to offer Tulsi leaves to Lord Krishna to receive salvation. Prayers to the Tulsi plant will bring about the blessings of Lord Vishnu and Sati Vrinda.
The Tulsi plant is very auspicious in India and it is said to remove tension.
Taking a bath with a few Tulsi leaves in the water is considered a sacred bath.
“Lord Hari is not so pleased after bathing with thousands of pots filled with celestial nectar, as he is when even a single leaf of Tulsi is offered to him” Brahmvaivartpuran, Prakritikhand 21:40
Tulsi mixed with water from the river Ganges is traditionally put in the mouth of a dying person to ensure the departing soul a safe journey to heaven.
The story tells that the goddess Tulsi, also known as Vrinda was married to the evil asura named Jalandhar. She was a faithful devotee of Vishnu as well as a faithful wife and prayed for her husband’s safekeeping and for this reason her husband was unconquerable.
Vishnu disguised himself as Jalandhar and seduced her. Her husband could now be defeated and was killed shortly after. Vrinda was horrified when she learned the truth and killed herself. The Holy Basil (Tulsi) grew from the ashes of her body. Tulsi was blessed by the gods.