How To Grow and Use
Sweet basil, also known as basilie and basiliekruid, originated in India,
where it is regarded as a herb sacred to the gods Krishna and Vishnu. It is
thought to protect against evil and every Hindu is buried with a leaf of
basil - a tulasi - on his or her breast.
How To Use Sweet Basil
for Natural Skin Care
You can make an invigorating beauty bath by adding a strong infusion of
fresh basil leaves to your bath. Use 1 cup chopped basil leaves in 2 cups
boiling-hot water. Steep for 15-20 minutes. Then add to bath.
How To Use Sweet Basil as a Companion Plant
Sweet Basil is a most beneficial companion for your other plants. In
particular it enhances the flavour of summer savory and it helps tomatoes to
grow larger and more flavoursome.
It's a good insect repellant for white
fly, aphids and fruit fly. A pot of basil, set on a windowsill near an open
window, will prevent flies from entering the room through the window.
Nicholas Culpeper observed that '... something is the matter, this herb and
rue will not grow together, no, nor near one another.' - but in our
experience they are quite happy bedfellows.
You can set pots on windowsills and in open doorways to deter flies, or you
can add a few leaves to the barbeque fire to deter moths. You can also grow
it as an attractive pot plant for the patio.
How To Use Sweet Basil in Your
Best used fresh (dried basil does not have the same flavour, a minty taste
predominates), sweet basil has a pungent, aromatic and spicy flavour that
resembles cloves. It's an outstanding choice as a home cuisine herb and you
can never have too many sweet basil plants growing in your garden.
Sweet basil has a special affinity for tomatoes and
tomato-flavoured dishes, and it is an essential ingredient to make a truly
wonderful pesto sauce. You can also add sweet basil to beans, cheeses,
chicken, eggs, fish, marinades, marrows, mushrooms, pasta and pasta sauces
and salads. It also makes a great herb vinegar and herb butter.
Always add it just before serving to cooked dishes as its
flavour diminishes with cooking. Pound it with a bit of olive oil or tear it
with the fingers, rather than chopping it. Sweet basil combines well with
garlic, parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme and sage.
How To Use Sweet Basil as a Natural Remedy
Sweet basil is used extensively in aromatherapy for ailments such as stress,
migraine, colds and hay fever. It has antispasmodic, appetizing, carminative,
galactagogue and stomachic properties. It is quite effective
for tension headaches, exhaustion and digestive upsets such as stomach
cramps, constipation, diarrhea and enteritis.
Make an infusion by adding 2 teaspoons fresh leaves to 1/2 cup boiling-hot
water. Steep for about 10 minutes. Strain and drink hot. Take three times a
Sweet basil is also used in
flower therapy for those who tend to separate spirituality from sexuality,
believing the two cannot be integrated.
Traditionally the dried leaves were pounded and, taken as snuff, used as a
remedy for colds.
How To Grow Your Own Sweet Basil
Sweet basil is a tender annual that grows about 40-60cm high. It prefers
well-drained soil in a sunny position. Protect your sweet basil against cold
winds and frost. Space the plants about 30cm apart and pinch out the growing
tips and flower heads to encourage a bushy habit.
Sweet Basil is propagated from seed and young
plants can be purchased from nurseries to plant in your herb garden.
Preserving Your Sweet Basil
Don't try to dry your sweet basil as the flavour is not the same as fresh
basil. You can keep the leaves briefly in plastic bags in the refrigerator
or you can preserve them in olive oil or vinegar. To freeze you can puree
the leaves with a little water and freeze them in ice cube trays or you can
cover both sides with olive oil and freeze them whole.
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