|Photo courtesy of Renee'sGarden|
Basil is the common name for the culinary herb Ocimum basilicum, a member of the mint family. There are many types of basil available offering a variety of scents and leaf shapes. The most common one, and the one found in Italian cuisine is sweet basil.
Basil, while a famous ingredient in Italian food is originally from India. It is believed to have been cultivated in Asia for more than 5,000 years.
While it's origins are traced to Asia Europeans have long revered this herb. The word basil originates from the Greek word basileus, meaning "king," and is is considered the "king of herbs." In France is it sometimes referred to as "l'herbe royale." The Portuguese gifted a potted basil plant to a sweetheart on the religious holidays of Saint John and Saint Anthony. There are now many varieties of Ocimum basilicum, named cultivars, related species or species hybrids that also go by the name of "basil." You can find over 160 named cultivars and it seems more are added every year.
Where to Grow
Sow seeds early indoors in late winter 4 to 6 weeks before last frost. Outdoors sow seeds in full sun in the ground or container. Sow seeds 1 inch apart and 1/4 inch deep. Seeds germinate in 7-14 days. Transplant plants started indoors outside by acclimating the plants to outdoor conditions. Space transplanted plants about 8 inches apart.
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