The One Essential Kitchen
by: Doug Green
Basil, (Ocimum basilicum), has been around
for a long time and was originally named by Theophrastus (you
know, the guy who co-founded and then replaced Aristotle as
head of the Peripatetic school of philosophy back in 323 B.C.)
There are indeed 35 species in the Basil family of plants,
ranging from annuals right through perennials and into shrubs.
The one I’m interested in though is a tender annual here in
zone 4 and is perhaps the most important culinary herb in my
repertoire. I’m going to ignore for the moment the other Basil
members including O. tenuiflorum, the Hindu Sacred Basil.
Sacred Basil is used quite extensively in India during funeral
rites as an emblem of good luck and is also used in
anti-malarial fumigation. Other species such as O.
kilmandschaicum (Camphor Basil) are mostly used for medicinal
purposes when treating stomach aches and
Let me give you some easy growing tips. The
first is that the seed is extremely easy to germinate. Sow
thinly in a warm spot (it doesn’t grow well in cold soil). You
can abuse this seed in other ways but do keep it warm if you
want to see it grow. Barely cover it with soil. If you cover it
too deeply, it will not germinate well. Keep moist – not
swampy. Water with warm water to really bring the seeds along.
Grow in as much sun as you can provide. That’s it. It’s easy
and as long as you keep the seeds and developing seedlings
warm, they’ll be fine. Sow indoors approximately four to six
weeks before you want to plant them outside or alternately, sow
outside after the soil has well warmed up. Once the plant is
twelve to eighteen inches tall, harvest regularly all summer to
keep new tender growth being produced.