Notes from Herb Heaven

Basil

This week's star herb is the ever-popular basil. There are different types of this spicy, aromatic herb and the ones that do well in my garden in Phalaborwa are lemon basil, sweet basil and the beautiful big perennial basil bush with its pinky purple flowers that attract the bees and butterflies.

Basil likes rich, well-drained soil. Sow direct or in seed trays 2 to 3mm deep. Water regularly. Fertilise occasionally with a nitrogen rich organic food. (Try growing comfrey to make a fertiliser 'tea'.) Pinch out the flowering centres to make a bushier plant. Mulch lightly in hot or dry weather. Grows in semi-shade in the tropics and is an ideal pot plant. Grow basil with tomatoes; it improves growth and flavour. Does not like Rue.

Beetles and slugs love basil. Handpick beetles off and use beer traps or tobacco dust for slugs. Dried basil stalks on the fire keep mosquitoes away.
A fresh plant on your kitchen windowsill, bruised frequently, repels flies.
Preserve basil in olive oil or layer it in coarse sea salt in a jar. Freeze it in ice-cubes.

Tea made from a ¼ cup of leaves in a cup of boiling water, left to stand for 5 minutes and then strained is used as a remedy for travel sickness, a gargle for mouth infections, it lowers high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, relieves stress and tension, helps relieve nausea, aids digestion and is a detoxifier and an anti-inflammatory.

Use basil in tomato dishes, salads and sauces for pasta, chicken and fish. The classic Genoese pesto is wonderful with just about anything. Try mixing it with mayonnaise.

 

Pesto

375 ml / 1½ cups basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
185 ml / ¾ cup olive oil
30-60 ml / 2-4 Tbs. nuts (pine nuts/walnuts)
100gm freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper
Blend all together in food processor or blender to a smooth paste.

 

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