Sweet basil is the basil that everyone knows, with large, soft green leaves and sprays of white flowers. It grows up to 50cm high and is frost tender. Pinch off the flowers to keep the plant bushy, and use in cooking, salads, first aid and beauty.
‘Perennial Basil Pink’ or ‘White’ has small mottled green leaves with a strong aromatic fragrance, and lilac or white flowers. The leaves can be used in soups and stews. It is semifrost tender but will survive winter if planted in a sheltered, sunny part of the garden.
Purple basil has spicy, scented, deep-purple oval leaves with clusters of pink flowers in summer. Use the leaves in salads, sauces and with pasta and rice dishes. It is frost sensitive.
‘Purple Ruffles’ has large, dark, shiny, purple-black, ruffled and fringed leaves and pink flowers. There is also ‘Green Ruffles’, with large ruffled green leaves. Both basils add texture to salads and as a garnish.
‘Siam Queen’ has lush green leaves, square purple stems and deep-purple flowers. The aroma is a cross between cinnamon and anise. It is especially good for Thai cuisine.
Basil ‘Magical Michael’ is a compact, bushy plant with small purple and white flowers that are attractive as a garnish. It is very attractive to bees.
Cinnamon basil has olive-green, spicy, cinnamon-scented leaves and pink flowers. Use in dishes requiring a sweet spicy taste.
Greek columnar basil is also a perennial basil. It grows upright and is an ornamental basil that is neat and easy to grow. The very aromatic leaves can be used in salads. It is frost sensitive.
Did you know?
The reason why basil is added near the end of cooking is because its volatile oils dissipate easily. The later it is added the better the flavour and fragrance
- Purple-leaved basils need more sun than green basils because of the lack of chlorophyll in the leaves.
- All varieties are equally easy to grow. In hot areas, or if grown in containers, they prefer morning sun, and full sun in cooler areas.
- Plant in fertile, well-composted soil that drains well.
- Water more regularly than other Mediterranean herbs (like thyme, rosemary, sage), especially if growing in pots – the soil should not dry out.
- Feed once a month for lush leaves, but twice a month if grown in pots.
- Pinch off the growing tips of small plants to encourage bushy growth.
Information supplied by www.healthyliving-herbs.co.za
Basil for health and beauty:
Basil is not just a culinary herb – it is also a mild antidepressant, has gentle healing actions, and helps improve skin irritations and blemishes.
Add an infusion to bathwater, or drink a cup of basil tea before going to bed – it also helps digestion, and lifts the sense of fatigue.
For first aid:
Rub fresh leaves on insect bites and stings to relieve itching. Drink 2 – 3 cups of basil tea a day to lower a fever, act against bacterial infections and soothe headaches and migraines. Make a cough syrup from a strong basil infusion and honey. Basil tea also helps to get rid of intestinal parasites.
Add basil to the boiling water when steaming your face and it will act as an astringent, tightening the pores.
Good to know?
Basil is a good companion plant for tomatoes, reputedly increasing the flavour of the fruit, as well as for beans, baby marrows, brinjals, cabbages and sweet peppers. Their aromatic leaves help to repel aphids, white fly, fruit fly and beetles and promote healthy growth. Pollinators, especially bees and butterflies, love perennial pink basil, and their presence encourages biodiversity in the garden.
Try this phenomenal summer caprese salad with herby basil pesto recipe!