Basil, the royal herb

Garden Life
Basil is one of the most fascinating of the herbs, and its many varieties cast their spell over gardeners, chefs and healers alike.

Basil yesterday and today

Today, the aromatic spice plant basil is familiar to virtually everyone. However, most people only know of the traditional green variety available from supermarkets, Genovese basil. There are, however, over 150 different types, which in turn are divided into countless varieties. They can taste of cinnamon or aniseed, glow a dark purple or red colour, such as Dark Opal and Red Rubin, and even keep insects at bay. Botanists still disagree as to whether the plant originates from the family of labiates in India or from Africa, since two thirds of all species are endemic to this area. 

The certainty is this: The name of the plant comes from the Greek and means 'royal medicinal plant'. Its healing effect is based on the high content of essential oils in its leaves, which have anti-inflammatory and appetite-inducing properties and can even alleviate a migraine. This herb, which settled in the Mediterranean region centuries ago, is actually a tropical plant. It has already been found as a burial offering in Egyptian pyramids and has been used by the Indians for 4,000 years. The Indians believed that basil was impregnated with divinity.

How basil makes life easier

Basil in tubs on the patio, in the garden, or on the window sill is a basic household essential. It also adds to any flowerbed as a decorative ornamental plant, thanks to its dainty flowers and distinctive colours. If you want to include this Mediterranean kitchen star in your flowerbeds despite the risk of snails, the young plants should be planted outdoors at the beginning of June. As a tropical plant, it grows extremely easily if its thirst for sun, light and water is quenched without restriction. It should be planted in loose, humus-rich soil which is not allowed to dry out. This kitchen herb is only able to cool its delicate leaves down to a level it can tolerate through excessive evaporation.

Practical advice: The more basil you pick, the bushier it grows. If you pinch off whole leaf shoots instead of individual leaves, you will ensure a constant supply of this royal herb.