Basil is one of the most popular herbs to date. Although it originated in Asia and Africa, it is most often associated with Italy. Still, its history extends to the early history of the Greeks and Romans- its name comes from the Greek word Ocimum which means “to smell.” In fact, sweet basil is so popular in the US that over 300 metric tons of the herbs are imported into the US per year to meet the demand.
Basil has a legacy of evil in ancient times; it was known by the Greeks and Romans to be the herb of anger and insanity. The French carried on this belief with the phrase “Semer le basilic” which means ranting and literally translates to “sowing the basil” because it was customary to curse as the task of sowing basil was performed.
Basil was also used by the women of Italy for an important and positive task other than cooking. It was customary to place potted basil outside the door of her home the day after a date to let a beau know he was approved of. Basil is also used by Haitians in their shops to encourage money flow and it is a sacred plant to Hindu gods Krishna and Vishnu.
Basil is a sun worshiper – whether you are keeping it indoors, in a pot or grounded, be sure to give it as much sun as possible. It also loves heat- the warmer the climate you are attempting to garden in, the more successful will your basil be – but it can also get out of control! Because it is also a kitchen favorite, keeping it on a windowsill keeps it an arms distance away from the stovetop. Basil is also best for basket and container growing! Be sure to pinch back your basil throughout the seasons to keep it growing well.
Kitchen Gardens grows and recommends the following varieties of basil – we think you’ll enjoy them, too!
Sweet Basil (O. basilicum)
The most popular and most common of the basil varieties.
Has a sweet and full, warm and spicy flavor.
Scent has minty overtones.
Spicy Globe Basil (O. b. var. ‘Spicy Globe’)
Smaller than sweet basil.
Its strong, spicy, basil flavor is a compliment to any tomato dish.
The small, mounding plant is excellent for containers.
Thai Basil (O. b. var. ‘Thai’)
Native to Thailand and Burma.
Purple stems and purple leaf tips and flowers.
Has a slight anise flavor.
Italian Basil (Unknown hybrid)
Has a pungent, peppery flavor.
The herb seed was brought to Kitchen Gardens from Italy.
Opal Basil (O. purpurem)
Slightly less pungent then sweet basil.
Cinnamon Basil (O. b. ‘Cinnamon’)
Lavender flower spikes and a cinnamon aroma.
Lemon Basil (O. b. ‘Citriodorum’)
Has a sharp citrus aroma.