Basil is a popular herb that loves the warm summer sun. It is easy to grow and adds a fresh, bright flavor to salads, pasta dishes, and more. Historical medicinal uses of basil vary across cultures. Uses have included remedies for colds, warts, melancholy, and scorpion and bee stings. Though Pendanius Dioscorides, the Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist, warned that too much basil “dulleth the sight” and is hard on digestion.
How to Grow Basil
Choose a Sunny Spot
Basil loves the sun and needs at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Choose a spot in your garden or balcony that receives plenty of sun.
Prepare the Soil
Basil prefers well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. You can add compost or well-rotted manure to the soil to improve its fertility.
Plant the Seeds
Basil can be grown from seeds or seedlings. If you are planting from seeds, sow them directly in the soil about 1/4 inch deep and cover them with soil. If you are planting from seedlings, transplant them into the soil, leaving about 12-18 inches between each plant.
Basil needs regular watering, especially during hot and dry weather. Water the plants deeply, but don’t let the soil become waterlogged. Allow the soil to dry out slightly before watering again.
You can fertilize basil with a balanced fertilizer every few weeks to encourage healthy growth.
You can start harvesting basil leaves once the plant has grown to a height of 6-8 inches. Harvest the leaves regularly to encourage new growth.
6 Fun Facts About Basil
Native to Africa and Southern India, basil is a sacred herb in the Hindu tradition and used in burial ceremonies in both India and Egypt.
The name basil comes from the Greek work “basileus” or “king”. It is also attributed to the word “basilisk” a legendary dragon who could slay a person with just one glance.
Romans on the other hand, believed the fragrance of basil stimulated love. Women seeking true love merely had to hand a sprig of it to their intended and he would be forever hers.
Italian men used basil in courtship as well, signaling matrimonial intent by wearing a sprig in their hair.
In the Middle Ages, basil was thought to create scorpions!
In the Victorian language of flowers, it symbolizes both hatred (common basil) and best wishes (sweet basil).