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In this article, we are bringing you everything you need to know about growing, cultivation, fertilization, varieties, planting, harvesting, drying and more about basil. Whether you want to plant basil in your homes, gardens or on your farm, this is the article for you.
|Basil planting conditions||second half of May and June, humus, deep and airy soil|
|Basil method of reproduction||seeds and seedlings|
|Basil flowering time||from early June to late August|
|Basil height||16 to 30 inches|
|Using basil||in culinary and healing|
Basil, Latin name Ocimum basilicum L., is an annual herbaceous plant from the Lamiaceae family, to which the rosemary also belongs. The Ocimum genus is widespread throughout Africa, Asia, and South America, and is considered to be native to India, where it was first cultivated and transmitted to Europe.
It has a branched root that penetrates the soil up to 16 inches deep, and the plant can reach a height of 16 to 30 inches. The soft green basil leaves grow on long petioles, are egg-shaped and have a whole or denticulated edge. The inflorescence is made up of tiny light pink flowers and develops at the tip of the stem. Basil fruit is an elongated sprout dark brown to black in color and has good germination.
Fresh and dried basil leaves or whole herbs are used for the seasoning, and the best seasoning is obtained from the plants harvested before flowering. There are many varieties of basil, and the most commonly used for cultivation is plain basil – Ocimum basilicum. There are varieties with medium-sized leaves, shrubby varieties with smaller leaves (Piccolo and Omicum b. Minumum) and palm-sized varieties (Genovese, Foglia di lattuga and others).
Most leaves are dark green in color, but there are species with leaves in burgundy (Osmin purple or Red ruby). In addition to the size and color of the leaves, basil is different in the aroma. Green plants have a sweeter aroma, while the latter has a pungent aroma and taste. It is also possible to find basil flavored with anise, cinnamon, and lemon.
Basil planting and propagation
Since this is a delicate plant, basil cultivation in continental parts is only possible in greenhouses or as a pot plant. Basil can be propagated by seeds or seedlings. It requires a lot of sun to grow successfully, so planting basil is done in the second half of May and during June when the soil is warm enough. Humus, deep and airy soil is ideal for planting basil.
If you want to grow your own seedlings, you need to sow the basil seeds from February to early May.
The most famous and popular basil cultivar is Basilico Genovese, an Italian cultivar of strong aroma and taste. If you want to try something special, you can plant a Sweet Green cultivar that has mint flavors. Whatever cultivar you choose, sowing or planting is done the same way. The seeds are shallowly sown in small pots and kept indoors where the temperature is around 68 °F. It is the optimum temperature for germination of basil, but it can also sprout at a minimum temperature of 54 °F.
Basil seeds will sprout after a week or two, and when the seedlings become sufficiently resistant, they need to be transferred to pots about 3 inches in diameter. Once the plants have solidified and rooted, you can transplant them outdoors. Transplanting is best done during wet and cloudy weather, and if it is sunny, the plants should be transplanted only in the late afternoon or evening.
With regard to the cultivation of basil from seed, optimum results are achieved if sowing is carried out in early May, while in areas where there is no risk of frost sowing can be done in late April. The best prerequisite for basil is legumes, and given that it is a one-year-old plant, basil will fit into any crop. It may return to the same place every second or third year.
Before sowing basil, it is necessary to cultivate the soil with deep plowing in the fall. The plowing is carried out at a depth of 12 to 14 inches, and the soil is cultivated in the spring in order to preserve as much moisture in the soil as possible.
When sowing, make sure that there is a distance of 20 inches between the rows. The depth of sowing is 0.2 to 0.4 inches, and a maximum of five seeds are added to one hole.
Basil cultivation and maintenance
Proper cultivation and maintenance of basil include nourishing, hoeing and watering. Since basil has a shallow root, it needs a large amount of moisture. Moisture is particularly needed in the germination, sprouting, bud developing and budding stages. In the vegetation phase, it requires rainfalls in the amount of 0.9 to 1 in².
Plowing is necessary to keep the surface loose and to destroy the weeds. The first hoeing should be done 15 days after the transplant, and the second 20 days after the first. If more weeds appear on the surface, a third plowing should be carried out.
Nourishing is also an important step in growing basil as it can significantly affect yield. Basil is nourished twice during the vegetation phase and nitrogen fertilizer is used for this purpose. The ideal time for first fertilization is after the first plowing and then 330 pounds of fertilizer per hectare is added. Nourishing is made in dry weather. The second nourishing is done after the first harvest, and after that, the surface should be dug and watered.
Basil cultivation in a pot
Small varieties of this plant are suitable for growing basil in a pot. The seeds are sown directly into pots that need to be kept on a window sill or some other place where there is enough light. When the plant reaches a height of 8 inches, you can tear off its tip and encourage it to grow in the form of a bush.
Basil diseases and pests
Basil is susceptible to bacterial disease in humid conditions, and the sign of this type of disease is leaf rot that causes irregular, dark areas to appear on the leaf.
Basil root is susceptible to roundworm pests that, when they enter the root, prevent water and nutrients from entering the soil, so the plant lags behind in growth and eventually withers. According to some studies, the influence of roundworms and other pathogens can be reduced by the addition of organic matter, such as chicken manure, and by solarisation. Lay plastic wrap on the ground and leave it for a month and a half or longer. The foil will retain heat and reduce the number of pathogens in the soil, but the process will only succeed if there are enough sunny days.
Diseases can cause root rot, common pinmould, black leaf spot and cucumber mosaic virus in the cultivation of basil. These diseases can be prevented by soil disinfection by steam or fumigation, but only in extreme cases. It is important to keep the machines and tools clean, and in case of infection, remove contaminated parts of the plant or the entire plant.
Basil harvesting and drying
Harvesting or mowing basil is done in June, when the plant is in the initial flowering stage and when the stem has the most leaves. The essential oil content is then the highest. Mowing is performed with mowers about 4 inches above the ground, which also stimulates the growth of more lateral branches and because of it, the bush at the second harvest is larger and more branched.
The second harvest is done at the end of August and the third at the end of September and the beginning of October, before the autumn frosts.
Basil is harvested in sunny and dry weather. After mowing, it stays in the field for a few hours, and after the harvest, it goes to processing.
The basil can be dried by bringing the whole plants together into small bundles and hanging in an airy place protected from direct sunlight. If you only pick the leaves, stack them apart on a clean piece of paper that you will put on some grids. Fully dried basil is cut finely and stored in well-protected boxes so that no light is produced.
You can store fresh basil in the refrigerator for a few days if you wrap it in moist paper or leave it in a well-sealed bag, and it can last up to six months in the freezer.
The composition and use of basil
Today, many different types of basil are grown and each has a specific taste and aroma. The taste and aroma of basil depend on the composition and quantity of the essential oil, which in turn depends on the soil quality, climatic conditions, picking time, etc. The whole basil contains up to 1.5% of the essential oil, and the ingredients that contribute to the aroma of basil are cineol, citral, eugenol, estragole, linalool, and methyl cinnamate. In smaller quantities, terpene compounds such as bisabolene, geraniol, ocimene, camphor, caryophyllene, etc. are also present.
Basil leaves are rich in vitamins A, C and K, and folic acid, and in smaller quantities contain all other vitamins.
Medicinal properties of basil
Basil is used in folk medicine to alleviate digestive problems and respiratory problems and insomnia. Basil seeds and leaves are used to disinfect small wounds and scratches.
Basil improves digestion, stimulates appetite, prevents flatulence and relieves cramps and pain in the digestive tract. It has a mild soothing effect and helps with insomnia, exhaustion, nervousness, and depression. Relieves problems caused by lung disease, flu, fever and wheezing and headaches that occur as a result of nervousness.
Basil preparations are used to remove bad breath and to treat mucosal inflammation. Fresh basil leaf juice is applied as a first aid to the insect bite location.
Basil tea is used to rinse the mouth with inflammation of the gums, hoarseness and throat disease, and is also used as a soothing agent. Strengthens concentration and relieves abdominal cramps.
Basil in Culinary Arts
Fresh basil leaves are used in cooking, and since cooking destroys their taste, the leaves are added to the dishes only at the end.
Dried basil has a too intense and slightly peppery taste and is used differently in the kitchen than fresh leaves. Combined with rosemary and sage, it makes the famous Provencal blend of dried spices – Herbes de Provence. Dried basil leaves give a taste of food and promote urinary output and detoxification of the body and are especially useful in diets for weight loss. One teaspoon of dried basil can replace one tablespoon of fresh leaves.
In the Mediterranean countries, basil is the main spice of refreshing meals, especially those that contain tomatoes. It is added to pizzas, salads, soups or bruschettas, as well as stews, zucchini omelets, cold summer mozzarella, and tomato salad and many other dishes.
In Taiwan, fried basil leaves are served with chicken, and fresh basil is also added to cream or milk used to make special chocolates and ice creams. In Taiwan, they also eat basil flower buds.
Basil can be easily flavored with olive oil. Soak about 20 basil leaves in a liter of virgin olive oil and leave for at least a month.
Interesting facts about basil
This spice plant in India is considered sacred and has been used by ancient cultures for fertility rites. This has been preserved to this day so basil is still used in voodoo rituals in Haiti.
For the ancient Greeks and Romans, basil was a symbol of hostility and hatred. However, in the Middle Ages, in Italy it symbolized love, and in this country, it is still customary to put girls with basil on a window to give lovers sign that they expect them.
Nonetheless, many still put basil pots on to the windows because its scent drives flies and mosquitoes.
Today, basil is grown in Asia and countries around the Mediterranean. It is a good neighbor to many other garden plants, as it repels pests, and its essential oil is used in the perfume industry.