All about Basil! Waterloo Horticultural Society member, Heather Kelly, shares that “The early Romans thought that it caused insanity. Ancient Greeks believed that to have a successful basil crop you had to shout and swear at the seeds while planting. In Europe, lovers exchanged sprigs of basil as a symbol of faithfulness. In rural Mexico, basil is thought to have the power to return a lover’s roving eye. In Haiti, it was used by the pagan love goddess Erzulie as a protector. Shopkeepers there sprinkle basil water around their stores to ward off evil spirits and bring prosperity. " ~ The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Basil is an ancient herb native to tropical regions ranging from Central Africa to Southeast Asia and it is easily grown right here in Canada for its delicate flavour. Basil likes warm soil; nighttime temperatures must be above 10°c or your plant will not grow well. Loose, well-draining soil is best but keep it moist—basil plants don’t like to dry out. Basil loves heat but be careful it doesn’t get burned as this alters the flavour of the leaves. It will thrive in a spot where the plants get morning sun and shade in the afternoons. If you basil begins to flower, nip the flowers so the plant continues to produce flavourful leaves. The flowers are edible and make a tasty and aesthetic addition to salads.
There are many varieties of basil, Genovese being the most common in our area. Also popular are the many Thai basils as well as the citrus basils with lemon or lime flavours; ‘Sweet Dani’ is a popular citrus basil.
The number one use for basil is, by far, pesto. It’s simple to make and delicious as a sauce on pasta, chicken, or seafood. You can add basil leaves to your appetizers, soups, pizzas, and salads or infuse the flavour into your favourite oil. A tasty herb with a myriad of uses.
Stay tuned for the at home gardening tips in the next edition!