Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)

Ocimum basilicum

Basil or Ocimum basilicum belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae. It is also known as Saint Joseph’s wort. It is both a culinary herb and a medicinal herb and sometimes also called great basil, sweet basil or Tulsi. The word basil is derived from the Greek word “Basileus” meaning royal. It is believed that basil grows above the spot from where Saint Constantine discovered Holy Cross along with his mother Saint Helena. Basil is considered as “King of herbs“.

Basil or Ocimum Basilicum Varieties

Commercially available basil are cultivars of sweet basil which constitute over 160 varieties of hybrids. Most commonly used basils for culinary use and medicinal properties are:

  • Piccolo Verde Fino : It is also called fine green basil

    Greek Basil
  • Greek basil
  • Lettuce leaf basil : A large leafy variety of basil having large, crinkled leaves that have a sweet taste.
  • Genoves basil : It is also known as sweet basil having clove like taste and fragrance due to eugenol content.
  • Lime basil :  This type of basil tastes like lemon due to presence of citral which gives a tangy citrus flavor to the leaves.
  • Siam Queen : It is also known as Thai basil

Scientific Classification

Kingdom – Plantae
Subkingdom – Tracheobionta (Vascular Plant)
Super division – Spermatophyta (Seed Plant)
Division – Magnoliophyta (Flowering Plant)
Class – Magnolipsida (Dicotyledons)
Subclass – Asteridae
Order – Lamiales
Family – Lamiaceae (Mint Family)
Genus – Ocimum
Scientific name : Ocimum Basilicum

Botanical Description

Ocimum basilicum is a fast growing tender herb which grows best in tropical warm climates and is perennial. It grows 12 -36 inches in height and spreads up to 24 inches like a bushy shrub. It has dark or light green, leaves which are silky.These leaves are 3 – 5 cm long and 1 – 3 cm wide,which are opposite to each other. The flowers of basil are arranged as a spike in white or pink color. The seeds of basil are black in color.

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Origin and Distribution of Basil

Basil is a native to Asia and the Middle East but has long been grown in Europe and Mediterranean regions.

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Favorable Conditions for Growing Basil

  • Soil: Basil grows best in well-drained, moist soil with neutral pH. You can add a rich compost to the soil at the beginning of the season.Soil amendment is not necessary. In fact, if the soil is too rich, basil loses some of its flavor intensity.
  • Sun: It grows best in warm environments that receive about six hours of sun each day. You can also plant a couple of basil plants in an area that receives only four hours of sun, but they aren’t as prolific as the others.
  • Water: You can water your basil when the soil is dry to touch.Water the plant at its base and not all over its leaves.
  • Spacing: Depending upon the variety, basil grows anywhere from 12 to 36 inches in height. Plant your basil saplings 12 to 16 inches apart.
  • Companion planting: Plant basil with any herbs and vegetables with similar lighting and watering needs, like tomatoes or parsley. Some even say tomatoes taste better when they neighbor basil.

Basil can be planted alongside chamomile, lettuce, peppers, and oregano.

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