If you’re thinking of starting your own herb garden, you will soon find that the rewards are far greater than with any other plants. This is due to the versatile nature that they possess and happily for us, basil is relatively easy to grow, either by seed or cuttings. Just make sure you harvest regularly to encourage more leaves to grow, but make sure that you pinch off any flowers that form, otherwise the leaves will start to taste bitter.
So, which herbs to choose to begin your ‘home growing’ journey?
There are plenty of herbs to choose from but the one herb you just have to have in your herb garden is the beautiful aromatic Basil. This delightful herb is known as the “King of herbs” and is not only grown for its flavour but also for its medicinal properties. Studies show that basil provide a wide range of health benefits from treating nausea to indigestion, diabetes, constipation, respiratory problems.
Spoilt for choice
There are many varieties of basil, each with their own distinct flavour.
There's red basil, lemon basil, clove basil, cinnamon basil Holy basil and even Christmas basil (although why it’s called that we’ve no idea?). There are literally dozens to choose from. When talking about the different types of basil, most people are familiar with the sweet basil varieties used in Italian cuisine, but many different types of basil are used in Asian cooking as well. See here a few varieties.
Link with HISTORY - Believe it or Not!
Thought to have originated in Asia and Africa, basil was brought to Ancient Greece by Alexander the Great. It arrived in England via India in the mid 1500s, being grown in medieval gardens and mentioned in several classic herbals.
This wonderful herb was cultivated for more than 5,000 years. Basil (ocimum basilicum) is derived from the Greek word ‘basileus’ which means King. Hence, it is often called ‘king of herbs’. It could also be due to the fact that it is one of the most widely used herbs in many cuisines around the world. Considered to be a sacred herb, basil featured in religious traditions around the world including Christianity and Hinduism, where Holy basil is especially sacred.
The myths of basil herb through history are both weird and wonderful. Each country has its own differing cultural and symbolic meanings. Thought to be a powerful protector, Egyptians would scatter basil leaves around their deceased loved ones. They believed it would help them on a safe journey to the next world, which is quite a comforting thought.
The most bizarre tales are about basil being associated with scorpions. One English doctor actually believed that by just smelling basil it would make a scorpion grow in your brain. Now that is something you don’t want to think about!
basil in the kitchen
Nothing can compare with the flavour and aroma of fresh basil. This most popular herb complements a wide range of foods especially tomatoes. You can’t make a ‘Caprese Salad’ without freshly picked basil leaves, roughly torn and added to sliced mozzarella and tomatoes, then drizzled with olive oil. So simple yet so delicious.
Meats, pasta, salads, soups, sauces, desserts and even in cool summer drinks all benefit from adding basil.
Basil herb butter is a tasty treat and so easy to make. All you need to do is finely chop basil leaves, add to butter, (touch of lemon juice if you prefer) then blend together. You can use with anything that you would add butter to, giving your recipe a special touch. Add to mashed potato, spread over grilled meats or simply spread over warm crusty bread for a special treat.
If you’re cooking with basil always add near the end of the cooking process as prolonged heat will lessen the flavour. However, it’s mostly enjoyed raw. You can be as creative as you want with basil and throw it in just about anything; there really is no end to its talents.
So what are you waiting for?
Start your herb garden and reap all the benefits that herbs bring. Not only health wise but if growing indoors your home will be lifted by the delicious scents coming from these wonderful plants.