Sweet Basil Seed
1-2’ - Bushy Growth Habit
Blooms in July and August with white flower spikes.
Basil needs full sun and porous soil that is rich in compost to produce healthy productive plants. It can be susceptible to “damping off” – an otherwise healthy looking plant that suddenly turns brown at the base of the stem and collapses. This can be controlled with good air circulation around the base of the plant and being cautious not to over-water. Basil’s roots need warm soil so wait to mulch plants to control weeds and and moisture loss until after the soil has warmed. Generally, basil is started indoors for an early start because it does not tolerate cold temperatures. If starting indoors, sow seed 1/8” deep in flats or directly in pots and firm the soil over the seed. Maintain soil temperature of 70-75 degrees and keep soil moist. Germination should occur in 3 to 5 days. Transplant to pots once true leaves have formed. Wait until all danger of frost has passed before moving outdoors. It is a good idea to harden off your plants for at least a week before planting. To harden them off, sit them in a shaded location outdoors during the day only for a few days and bring them in at night. Then, leave them out at night as well in a protected area (like under an overhang). Do this for a couple days/nights and they will be ready to plant.
Basil can be sown outdoors after danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed, and night temperatures are around 50 degrees.
Spacing and Care:
Space your plants at least a foot apart. Pinching the center growth after the second set of leaves has formed will promote side shoots and a bushier plant.
You can harvest fresh basil leaves anytime after the second set of true leaves have formed by pinching out centers and taking a few leaves here and there. Harvest the bulk of your basil just before the flowers open by removing 2/3 of the vegetation; this encourages a second crop of leaves.
Basil is mainly used fresh, but it can be dried for later use. They dry most thoroughly if removed from the stem. We dry ours on screens in a single layer out of direct sunlight. They can also be freeze-dried in the freezer.
Culinary, Medicinal, Butterflies, Bees
Tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world including: Africa, India, Asia, Central and South-America.
Sunny locations, in rich well drained soil with pH 5.5-7.5
Making fresh pesto with sweet basil immediately comes to mind when coming in contact with the herb. Genovese Basil and Italian Basil are two cultivars of sweet basil that are also popular for making fresh pesto. There are over 150 species of named basils in the world, with more being named every year. Sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum, is the variety we most commonly find in grocery stores with the glossy green leaves and sweet anise-like flavor. With basil being native to so many parts of the world, you can find sweet basil cultivars with many different characteristics – bigger leafs, different colors (red, purple, spotted...), different flavors (cinnamon, lemon, lime, clove). This seed is for straight-up Sweet Basil, no tinkering necessary!
There is some debate over the meaning of the the name “basil”. It is Greek in origin, from the word ‘basileus’ meaning ‘king’. One train of thought is that it was named “king” because it was used among the royal class in baths and medicines. Another line of thought is that it was named for its use in another way: Nicholas Culpeper noted that basil was "an herb of Mars and under the Scorpion, and therefore called Basilicon". Basilicon, or basilicum, is the word used for ointments that were believed to have 'sovereign' virtues, making it royal in its own right.
Interestingly, basil has been tied to scorpions throughout history. It was at one time believed that if a basil leaf was placed under a pot, a scorpion would appear in its place. Herbalist John Gerard proclaimed that eating basil leaves would numb the pain of a person stung by a scorpion.
Although basil is a popular culinary herb today, it has had its ups and downs in reputation. On the revered side - it was said to have been found growing near the tomb of Christ after the resurrection, so some Greek Orthodox churches used it to prepare the holy water and will arranged potted basil plants at the base of the church altar. On the low side – many Greeks and Romans considered basil a symbol of hostility and insanity in first century AD. The well-known Roman physician Galen and the Greek physician Dioscorides both claimed if basil was taken internally it would cause insanity and spontaneous generation of internal worms.
A thousand years later, basil was on the upswing again with Arab physicians proclaiming it a great healing herb. Roman naturalist, botanist and herbalist Pliny was in agreement, as well as healers in China, who used it to relieve stomach, kidney, and blood ailments.
Basil has been and is still used in many parts of the world to treat just about everything. In the Philippines, a poultice of basil is used to treat ringworm infections and basil tea is used to induce labor. In Malaysia, it is used to expel intestinal worms (talk about a turn-around in view!) In Haiti, shopkeepers sprinkle basil water around their shops to ward off evil spirits and ensure prosperity.
Basil has a long history in many traditions as a plant of love and has even been touted as having aphrodisiac properties. In Northern Europe basil sprigs are exchanged between lovers as a sign of faithfulness. According to some traditions in Italy, when a woman is ready to receive her lover, she places a pot of basil in view on her balcony. And who could imagine Italian food without the wonderful addition of sweet basil?
In the United States, basil had gained significant popularity as a culinary herb, commonly used in sauces, pesto, and even tea. In addition to their wonderful relationship in the kitchen, basil and tomatoes are reputed to be great garden companions as well: it is reputed that basil enhances the flavor and growth of tomatoes and acts as an insect deterrent when planted as companion plants.
Medicinally, basil taken as a tea aids digestion and simulates the appetite. Basil tea also promotes milk production in nursing mamas and relieves gas in infants. It can be used for nausea, stomach cramps, headaches and anxiety. Research conducted in India has shown that basil oil can be effective in killing bacteria when applied to the skin as an acne treatment. Another study showed basil stimulates the body’s immune system by increasing the production of antibodies by as much as 20%.
Parts of the Plant Used:
Leaves and flowers, both dried and fresh
Estragol, eugenol, lineol, linalol
Appetite stimulant, anti-spasmodic, carminiative (aids gas), galactagagoue (promotes milk production), mild sedative, aphrodisiac
Preparations and Dosage:
Infusion: Steep 2-3 teaspoons of dried basil in one cup boiling water for 10-20 minutes. Drink as needed to relieve gas, spasms, or promote milk production. Make a stronger infusion to use externally to fight bacterial infections associated with acne.