Basil: how to grow it and health benefits

How to have a luxuriant basil?  The tricks for growing it in pots

You have recently purchased a plant of basil and would you like to keep it always lush and healthy? Or maybe you have simply decided to dedicate yourself to home gardening, and have seeds available to plant? Either way, what you need is a good understanding of this plant, especially if you want it to survive for more than a few months.

In fact, basil, just like all other balcony or garden plants, has its own needs that must be taken into consideration. Did you know, for example, that it should be pruned from time to time? And did you know that the shrub really shouldn’t be constantly exposed to sunlight?

In this article we will discover everything you need to know about basil, we will see how to grow it, when to harvest it and how to use it both in the kitchen and to improve our health.

Generalities of the plant

But let’s first see the generalities of this plant, considered one of the most famous and appreciated in the Mediterranean diet. The scientific name is actually Ocimum basilicum.

It’s about a annual herbaceous plant, belonging to the family of Lamiaceae. This large family also includes other aromatic herbs used in cooking, such as thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram and oregano, but also bergamot.

In particular, basil is native to the East, Iran, India and other tropical areas of Asia. Gradually it spread like wildfire to many other countries, reaching the old continent through trade.

The appearance of the plant

Who doesn’t know the classic basil look? According to the different varieties, this plant can actually take on different characteristics. In general, it can reach 60 centimeters in height, the leaves – whose size can reach centimeters – have an oval and elongated shape, and are often wavy. As you well know, the latter also have a very pleasant scent.

The plant also has small white or pink flowers.

Basil: to each his own type

There are actually several varieties of basil. Among the best known we will find:

  • Cinnamon basil (Ocimum basilicum cinnamon), a plant native to Mexico that has a spicy flavor
  • Dark Opal, also with a strong spicy flavor
  • Minimum basil, of Greek origin (also called Greek basil)
  • The Purple Ruffles or purple basil, a very aromatic variety
  • Anise, which is instead characterized by a light scent of anise and is also known as “basil licorice” (even if it has nothing to do with classic licorice)
  • And the famous Crispum basil, which is what we are used to growing on our balcony in Italy.

A little curiosity: basil also grows spontaneously in the woods. This wild variety is known with the scientific name of “Clinopodium vulgare” or simply Wild Basil.

Sowing and cultivation

Source: Pixabay

After discovering some curiosities about this plant, it is time to do gardening! So let’s grow our own basil. Before starting, you must know that the ideal climate is mild, appreciated by other aromatic herbs, such as bay leaf.

Basil does not tolerate temperatures below 10 degrees (although some variants are able to tolerate even more severe cold). Also, contrary to what many think, he doesn’t like exposure to sole perennial. The plant should be exposed to sunlight for about 6-8 hours a day, after which it should receive good shelter.

Protect your shrub even in case of rain strong or hail.

The choice of land

And let’s move on to choosing the most suitable soil for this plant. The latter should be soft and draining. Before sowing, prepare the growing area by enriching the soil with some organic fertilizer and compost, then moisten it evenly.

The sowing it will naturally depend on the cultivation mode you have chosen. If, for example, you intend to grow basil outdoors, it must take place between the month of March and the month of May.

Pot or garden: where is it better to plant basil?

This plant will offer great results whether planted in pots or in the garden, like garlic. In the first case, or if you intend to grow basil in pots, it will be important to put some tricks into practice.

Prepare the soil by pouring a bed of gravel, in order to favor the drainage of liquids. Then, you can pour in the soft soil enriched with compost. At this point, water the soil to moisten it slightly, and let it rest for a whole day.

Finally, you can gently plant your seedlings or the appropriate seeds.

How to plant basil seeds?

And speaking of the semi, the latter can be placed directly in the earth, in small holes about 2 centimeters deep. If you plan to grow multiple seedlings, make sure they are at least 10 to 15 centimeters apart. After placing the seeds, cover everything with a thin layer of potting soil, moisten slightly and let nature do the rest of the work.

How much water to give?

This is one of the questions most often asked by aspiring basil “growers”. How much water to give to the plant so as not to risk “drowning” it or causing it to die? Generally the seedlings they should be watered almost every day, preferably in the morning or evening.

If you live in an area where it rains a lot, check thehumidity of the soil. In fact, basil does not tolerate excessive water.

When to collect it?

At this point, after a couple of weeks your plant will already be green and lush, and maybe you will be looking forward to picking a few leaves to flavor your favorite dishes. Well, but how to collect the basil leaves? First fundamental rule: we must not snatch them one by one. Using a pair of scissors, collect the largest leaves, preferably close to the apex.

To harvest the basil you will need to remove the leaves, or even better the twigs. Choose the leaves that are on the top, and during this phase check that it is not already time to prune the plant. Yes, because this too needs a trim from time to time.

But how to prune basil? In addition to eliminating weeds and any parasites, you can get a nice lush stem by removing the first inflorescences of the plant regularly.

How to use basil in cooking?

How to use basil in cooking
Source: Pixabay

We know that this plant is practically omnipresent in the homes of Italians. You will probably have a few jars on your balcony or on your kitchen windowsill too. The reason is very simple: fresh basil enriches with scent e taste every dish, from pizza margherita to pasta with tomato, from sauces to main courses.

Besides having a great scent, it also boasts some nutritional properties noteworthy. In fact, the plant contains fibers, minerals (such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and many others) and vitamins, such as A, B and vitamin E. Like horseradish, or even fennel, it also has a good digestive power.

It is also an excellent source of vitamin C, such as borage, of beta-carotene, from flavonoids and of eugenolo, a compound with a disinfectant and carminative action, capable of reducing abdominal swelling and bloating. Eugenol is the same substance that gives the plant its very particular aroma.

The benefits of basil

If you are looking for truly effective natural remedies, you should know that basil is one of the most useful plants in this regard. The plant is best known for its beneficial effects on the digestive system, but this is not the only property worth mentioning. So let’s see what it is good for and how to use it to improve your health in a natural way.

  • Basil boasts digestive, antispasmodic, carminative properties and allows you to fight even urinary tract disorders thanks to its antiseptic properties.
  • The plant allows to treat respiratory diseases (such as colds, asthma and cough).
  • Basil is also an excellent anti-inflammatory remedy, thanks to the presence of the aforementioned eugenol.
  • The plant is also used to treat arthritis, also in this case thanks to the presence of eugenol.
  • Basil helps fight anxiety and depression, thanks to its ability to also act on the well-being of the nervous system.
  • Reduces the discomfort caused by mosquito bites: the essential oil of basil will allow you to relieve the itching. Also, it seems that this plant doesn’t like these insects that much, so it could act as a great natural repellent.
  • Relieves nausea and exerts a slight antiseptic effect.

How to use basil to improve health?

Basil can improve our health whether taken in raw form or taken in the form of essential oil. In the latter case, the product can be used to relieve discomfort such as itch caused by insect bite. A fresh infusion of basil can act as a mouthwash to improve the health of the throat and mouth, and could also relieve the difficulties of swallowing.

If you suffer from wartsYou could also apply essential oil to the part to help it heal. Before doing this, however, always ask your dermatologist for confirmation.

To relieve stress, anxiety and depression, use essential oil to perfume the environment by pouring a drop into the appropriate essential oil burner. This remedy will also be useful for improving concentration and stimulating memory.

Finally, for an invigorating bath, pour a dozen drops of basil essential oil into the tub, mix well and immerse yourself. Such a remedy will help improve blood circulation and reduce swelling in the legs.

Source: GreenStyle by

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