Oh how I love basil. When we moved into our first RV six years ago, I needed something to help soothe my tortured soul. Gardening tends to be one of the best soul soothers for me. Since it was January, gardening would have to wait. Also, since we were in an RV, I had to be willing to container garden, something I had never done, so that I could move the plants into the RV whenever we needed to move.
I’m not sure how I got started on basil growing, but, that year, it was my sole plant focus. I grew around 10 different varieties of basil, mostly quite successfully. I started with sweet basil, which I have discovered is the most commonly grown basil in US home gardens.
Then I found a cinnamon basil plant. The spicy sweet scent released when I rubbed a leaf sold me on this variety immediately. Spicy globe basil grabbed my attention with its appearance. Tiny little leaves growing in a sphere…love it. Holy basil (Tulasi) peaked my interest because I had heard it could be really hard to grow. I guess I was needing a challenge, along with needing to prove I could grow this plant. I was in a really odd head space, though I guess not that weird since I tend to be drawn to the plants tagged as difficult to grow. By the end of the summer, I had added lemon basil, licorice basil, Genovese basil, Greek dwarf basil, and purple ruffles basil.
The one that I have had the least success with is the purple ruffles basil. I can get it growing from seed and into a really healthy starter plant, but, after that, everything goes down hill. I have no idea why. One of my goals this year is to get one of the purple ruffles basil plants to make it to harvest. I also want to try growing some Thai basil.
Growing basil is pretty simple. The seeds take a bit longer to sprout than I had anticipated but once they are going, their growth is easily measured. Most of the information I found back then, and now, says that basil loves full sun. I do not agree, or at least that is not how it went for me. I also have had a difficult time trying to grow this herb inside. I found that if I let the basil, all of the varieties I have tried with the exception of the purple ruffles variety, bask in the sun all day, they are wilting and look near death. Giving it just a couple of hours of sun in the afternoon seemed to be the best situation, giving me full, very healthy looking basil plants. My suggestion is to try it in a few different lighting situations to see what works best for you.
Besides it’s potentially endless culinary uses, basil has some great medicinal properties. Chewing up a leaf or two and placing it on insect bites or stings helps to draw out the ‘venom.’ I have also heard that rubbing a wart with basil, daily, and covering it with a bandage will remove the wart. Pouring boiling water over a handful of chopped or cut basil leaves makes a mildly sedative tea. and the aroma is very happy. Since basil is also great for settling the stomach and increasing appetite, basil tea is a great before or after dinner tea. Basil is also a nice addition to home-made insect repellents and either chewing or eating some basil, or adding some of the essential oil to an oil burner/diffuser, helps to relieve headaches. Personally, I love eating basil, smelling basil, bathing in bath water with fresh, lightly crushed basil leaves. With basil, it’s always good to have an imagination. Basil will also revive the dead tired brain, as well, making those late night study sessions or extremely taxing days at work a bit more manageable.