If you’re thinking of starting your own herb garden, you’ll soon find that the rewards are far greater than with any other plants. This is due to the versatile nature that they possess. There are so many herbs to choose from but the one herb you just have to have in your herb garden is the beautiful aromatic basil herb.
So Much Choice of the Basil Herb
You will be spoilt for choice with the many different types that are available. There's lemon basil, lime basil, cinnamon basil, red basil, Holy basil, sweet basil. There’s even Christmas basil (although why it’s called that we’ve no idea?) all with its own unique aroma. There are literally dozens to choose from.
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.
Myths - Believe it or Not!
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!
Happily for us, basil is relatively easy to grow, either by seed or cuttings in one of our Kitchen Gardeners, ensuring a plentiful supply of fresh leaves for use in the kitchen all year round.
If you harvest regularly it will encourage more leaves to grow, but make sure that you pinch off any flowers that form, otherwise the leaves will start to taste bitter.
What to do with the Basil Herb
Nothing can compare with the flavour and aroma of fresh basil. This most popular herb complements a wide range of foods. Tomatoes especially, but also meats, pasta, salads, soups, sauces, desserts and even in cool summer drinks.
Basil leaves can be roughly torn over dishes to add flavour or added to sliced mozzarella and tomatoes, then drizzled with olive oil to make a classic Caprese salad.
Basil herb butter is a delicious treat and so simple to make. 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.
Check out how to use our Kitchen Gardeners and see how easy it is to create your own herb garden and grow the delightful versatile basil.