Ocimum basilicum: Basil

Family: Lamiaceae
Common name: Basil, Great Basil

What’s a pasta without basil? Incomplete! This herb that can grow to a height of 2-4 feet packs quite a punch. The sweet, strong, pungent smells that meets you when you go near the plant is quite arresting. The common varieties are Sweet basil, Thai basil, Lemon basil and Holy basil (tulsi). The leaves are used to make tea, flavor salads, or in pasta and pizza. Dried leaves can be stored for a long time.

There are over 50 varieties of basil, some of them cultivars, produced through selective breeding. Although it is an outdoor plant, you could trying growing basil on a sunny window sill.

Interesting facts:

  • The unique scent is due to essential oils which were used to make perfumes for royalty in olden days.
  • Basil is said to have aphrodisiac properties, the fresh scent stimulating blood flow.
  • The all time favorite pesto, is made by grinding basil leaves, garlic, olive oil and some nuts.

Propagation is done through stem cuttings that can we kept in water till roots develop.

Photo Courtesy: Lavi Perchik, Gabriele Lässer