Herbalists recommend basil for stomach cramps, vomiting and constipation. Basil has been described as having a slight sedative action, so it is sometimes recommended for headaches and anxiety.
Until I started researching herbs to grow for our kitchen, I didn't realize how extensive the list is of basil cultivars. Ramonas Basil Garden provides the most comprehensive list I could find. The following are some of my favorites.
Ocimum Basilicum Cultivars
|Lettuce Leaf Basil|
|Spicy Globe Basil|
|Greek Yevani Basil|
|Fino Verde Basil|
|Red Rubin Basil|
|Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil|
Ocimum Americanum Cultivars
Ocimum Citriodorum Cultivars
|Greek Columnar Basil|
|Thai Lemon Basil|
Other Species and Hybrids
|Greek Bush Basil|
|African Blue Basil|
About two weeks after planting your basil, begin to pinch off the tips to encourage lush growth. Remove flower buds as soon as they begin to grow to keep the plant focused on making more leaves.
The ideal time to harvest basil is on a sunny morning immediately after the dew has evaporated and before the day becomes warm. When harvesting basil, cut it back to about 1/4 inch above a node. Leave enough foliage on the plant so it can continue growing healthy.
Eat both the leaves and flowers in salads, marinades, and vinegars. Throw them on top of pizza, into sauces and soups, or on toast with fresh Mozzarella cheese. Lemon basil is delicious in fish and Thai cuisine, and the fresh leaves make an excellent tea. Try blending the various cultivars into colorful pesto. Here's one to start:
Dark Opal Pesto
A large quantity of fresh Dark Opal Basil (I stuff as much as I can into my food processor and continue adding more as the mixture blends)
1 C. Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 C. Olive oil
1/4 C. Pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 fresh lemon
Salt & pepper, to taste
1. Place basil, Parmesan cheese and olive oil into a food processor. Blend.
2. As you continue to blend your mixture, add pine nuts, garlic and lemon juice. Continue adding more basil leaves.
3. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Transfer pesto to glass jars. Use immediately, or freeze for later use.