Basil does great as a potted plant, though you can put it outdoors also as long as you are at least zone 6. It will adapt to most soils , but prefers a rich, moist soil. It will do best in full sun and likes the heat. It will grown up to 2 feet tall and about 18 inches in width, but if you're using the leaves you'll prune it long before it ever gets that big! And I really think you'll want to use those leaves. (Although if you don't, plant Basil anyway just for the amazing scent!) You can use them fresh, chop and freeze them, dry them, or make pesto. You can also keep leaves in a glass jar covered in olive oil and refrigerated. If you do dry your Basil, keep in mind it will lose some color and flavor over time. The dried version will keep best sealed in a glass container and kept in a cool dark place for no more than six months. Basil will flower in mid summer, but prune away the flowers to maintain the best flavor in the leaves. If you are doing some companion planting, Basil is best planted near tomatoes and peppers and should be planted away from other members of the Mint family. There are many different kinds of Basil you can try. Besides Sweet Basil, Lemon, and Cinnamon Basil are two others I like
Because it's part of the mint family, it has many of the same medicinal properties as other other members of that family, such as a being used as a digestive aid and headache remedy.
(I feel like I should put a disclaimer here. I'm not a doctor. If you have health issues, don't just eat your Basil plant. Talk to your doctor.) ;)
I always think it's interesting to read background and folklore about plants, so in case you do too, here's a little extra fun stuff about Basil:
There is some question as to where the name came from. It may have come from the Greek work basilikon or basileus meaning "royal" or "king", and showing the culture's great respect for the plant. Or, the name might have come basilick, which is a legendary reptile who could kill you with a glance or breath! Personally, I'm going with the first one!
Basil is a symbol of love in Italy and according to tradition, if a woman puts a pot of Basil on the balcony outside her bedroom, it means she is ready to receive her suitor. Once, many years ago, I had a pot of Basil on my balcony of my bedroom in my apartment in the city. If it attracted the "suitor" I had at that point in my life, then ..well...I recommend just keeping it in the kitchen window!
Romany gypsies had a "spell" using Basil as well. It was said that if you place a glass of water in the moonlight, sprinkle in a little basil, a pinch of Fennel seed, Nutmeg, Ginger, and Thyme, leave it to steep overnight, strain it into a clear glass jar, and then dab it on the clothing
of the man or woman you love, they will be bewitched. (Another disclaimer, if you throw a glass of Basil-y water on someone, don't blame me if they are...less than bewitched.)
So now, I'm obsessively checking for any little green sprouts....
What's your favorite herb?
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