Basil
Basil
Basil
Basil

Basil

Ocimum basilicum

Basil is anti-inflammatory and also helps with digestive issues. Basil also helps stimulate the nervous system against stress and anxiety.

  • Plant type: Annual
  • Other names: St. Joseph's Wort
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: Yes
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Leaves & Stems
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About Basil

The great basil is a jovial member of the family Lamiaceae. This tender plant is famous in the culinary world as it sparks an aesthetic flavor to the meal. It is reckoned as a both an annual and perennial plant. A good many varieties of basil are available that are not only beautiful and flavorful but also delicious to the core. Due to the availability of diversified varieties, the shapes and sizes of leaves vary heavily with plant height ranging from 12 in to 60 in. It has small white flowers that are perfectly edible but possess a little milder flavor and aroma than the leaves.

Basil leaves are flooded with an abundance of advantages that are relished all around the globe. It confers skin benefits, aids in digestion, fights depression, supports liver function, manages diabetes, and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant to grab the root cause of the disease and vanish it from the scratch.

Its chief active ingredients are linalool and methyl chavicol. Other ingredients that are of equal importance include 1,8-cineole, eugenol, and myrcene that aid in maintaining a healthy gut along with proffering mind-blowing health benefits.

Growing

Basil only grows lavishly when they are planted outside. The soil must be at a minimum temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit in day hours whereas, at night, the temperature must not drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It loves to grow in warm weather with full sun exposure of about 6 to 8 hours. It can also bare partial sun exposure but doesn’t tolerate poor soil. It needs rich, clean, and moist soil with well-established drainage.

The only condition where indoor plantation can be possible is when you need to get a jump on the season i.e. 6 to 8 weeks prior to the last spring frost. To transfer the plant outside, wait for the soil to reach the temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit to get the good quality crop.

Harvesting

Basil plant is quite versatile and its annual lifecycle comprises three well-defined stages.

  •  Juvenile stage
  • Transition stage
  • Productive stage

Juvenile stage

This stage is characterized by plenty of leaves on a plant that has a height of approximately 12 inches. The leaves can be pruned but it is suggested to leave the small ones and let them grow.

Transition stage

At this stage, there aren’t many leaves left on the plant. According to many gardeners, the plant can endure only two cuttings and that too two to three weeks apart before the termination of this stage.

Productive stage

As the name indicates, this stage welcomes the blooming period but negates the idea of growing rich green leaves anymore. This stage marks the end of the lifecycle of our very own well-wisher. The plant produces seeds and dies to initiate a new lifecycle.

The height of the basil plant is a great marker for the initiation of harvest. Just when your plant attains the height of about 6 to 8 weeks, you know your leaves are ready to spark your food.

It is better to harvest the leaves early in the morning because, at that precise time, the leaves are at their juiciest. The juvenile stage is also preferable for harvesting the leaves. Moreover, to get a handful of highly flavored leaves, try to pick them any time before bloom.

All around the globe, basil leaves are highly celebrated due to its remarkable flavor. Simply just prune the leaves with scissors and add it to your pesto to have the flavor that beats every spice.

Basil leaves are best stored in a freezer. Modestly fill the re-sealable bag with basil leaves and place it in the freezer to preserve its flavor. 
Another way of storing the leaves is by opting for the drying method. They can either be air-dried in a well-ventilated room for three to four days or place them in the oven at the lowest heat with the door slightly ajar. Dehydrators also work wonderfully (and quickly) for basil. 

Usage

Although basil is utilized in fresh form in culinary disciplines but people also avail its perks in different preparations.

  • Tincture- Infuse freshly chopped basil leaves in grain alcohol for 4 to 6 weeks. Strain the liquid and place it in a dark and dry place. 
  • Tea- Steep fresh basil leaves in boiling water for 10 minutes. Add lemon or honey to spark the buds and enjoy.
  • Decoction- Fresh basil leaves are simmered for about 40 minutes and the liquid is later strained to be consumed as a decoction.
  • Salve- Fresh basil leaves are blended with different essential oils (mostly lavender), beeswax and carrier oils to form a pain-relieving basil salve.
  • Syrup- Fresh basil leaves are simmered with the solution of sugar and water to form basil syrup.
  • Infused oil- Wilted basil leaves are added to olive oil and infused for 3-4 weeks. Once the oil is to your liking, strain and bottle to use in cooking.