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Arbor Gate's Picks
of the Month

Basil

December 8, 2016 Back to Picks >

(Ocimum basilicum)

Each month during 2016, my Herb Picks will be accompanied by a myth or other tale that has come down to us through the centuries, as well as some useful growing information. These are herbs that can be grown in our area, and are found in the Arbor Gate Herb House throughout the year. Needless to say, not all herbs are available during every season, so keep a list handy of those you want to add to your herb collection.

There are many stories of the origin of basil, but we will surmise that the name coming from the mythical character the basilisk is correct. The basilisk was a large lizard, much like the bearded dragons of today and was thought even a look would kill. Scorpions were also associated with basil and it was thought that eating too much basil would breed scorpions in the brain. Basil is used mainly as a culinary herb.

Basil varieties are highly varied as to color, leaf size and shape, plant size when mature, and, of course, ?avors. The primary ?avor groups are sweet, spicy, citrusy overtones, and distinctly aromatic, as with Holy Basil — also known as Tulsi.

Growing basil successfully in our climate is quite easy, as it is a subtropical plant throughout the world. Tempting as it is to begin planting it out as soon as young plants appear in our nurseries, the customary chilly winds and low temperatures of early spring will be quite discouraging to proper growth. By waiting until mid to late April to plant, gardeners will give their basils a great start towards the thunderous growth of summer.