By Gael (Plot 234)

Who does not love basil with its bright pea green leaves and it’s pungent peppery, anise aroma.
Pretty in the garden and delicious on the plate. It’s name comes from Greek and meaning king.
Many health benefits are attributed to this herb. It is antioxidant, antiviral, anti-microbial with a potential for treating cancer.

Basil is from the same family as mint, the Lamiaceae family.
There are many different cultivars:
– Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum ) is the most common in Australia.
– Thai Basil (Ocimum basilicum var thyrsiflora ) is common in Thai food and somewhat spicier than sweet basil.
– Lemon Basil (Ocimum citriodorum) has a slightly citrus flavour.
– Bush Basil (Ocimum basilicum var minimum) or Greek Basil is a small variety.
– Purple Basil (Ocimum basilicum var purpurenscens) has a beautiful purple leaf and is wonderful in flavoured vinegars as it gives it a lovely rosy hue.
There are many others, such as cinnamon, camphor, dark opal, holy etc etc.

Some basils are perennial in a warm climate but they are usually treated as annuals.
It has been used for centuries, originating in Asia it is now used worldwide.
Sweet basil plays a major role in Italian sauces, soups and pastas. Asian cuisines use a variety of different basils in stir fries, salads, soups and spring rolls.

Basil likes a compost rich soil.
Plant when the soil has warmed up in late Spring/Summer.
Pinch out the tips to create a bushy plant.
Harvest the top leaves weekly to produce fresh growth.
Small white flowers appear along stems, they can be pruned off and eaten.
Best friend to Tomatoes.
Repels spider mites, aphids and generally benefits your garden.
Can be dried but best used fresh. Freezes well in oil. Stores well covered in olive oil in a jar.

Basil pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons pine nuts or cashews, can toast if desired
Salt & pepper
3-5 tablespoons olive oil
60- 90 gm freshly grated Parmesan cheese.