Ocimum basilicum to give it its latin name comes in several colours, from yellowish green, through green to purple, all of which produce white flowers in summer.
Gorgeous flowers on the purple variety
I pinched an idea from Monty Don of Gardeners World fame, who says he always plants his next to his tomatoes in the greenhouse, and I have done the same this year. Plus I have just read, and I am quoting here from 'Growing Herbs', by Murdoch books; 'Basil is a popular companion plant with organic gardeners, who believe that planting it next to tomatoes and capsicum will improve their growth.' So I guess Monty does know a thing or two after all!
I've just measured this one, the biggest one in the polytunnel and it stands 77cm tall!
The leaves are covered in small oil cells which gives the herb its strong flavour and aromatic smell and the flowers should be pinched out to preserve the smell. It is an annual plant, that I find is best sown fresh every spring in a greenhouse. It can be taken outside in warm summer, but I tend plant mine in the polytunnel or keep it in a pot on the kitchen windowsill.
Many myths and legends surround this wonderful herb; from being loved or truly hated; it has a link to scorpions of all things and was thought to be able to turn itself into one (!); and to tales that only beautiful women could cultivate it (obviously that's rubbish because Monty grows it so well!); it is classed as a Holy plant in its native country - India, being grown outside temples, laid on the chests of dead Hindu people, and used as a disinfectant and insect repellant.
It also has medicinal properties; being a useful soothant of travel sickness, or general stomach complaints, (make a tea from the leaves).
The most well known use is of course Pesto, made from your own leaves -
100g Fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
75g Parmesan cheese
6 tbsps Good olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend the basil, garlic and pine nuts to a pulp, either in a pestle and mortar or a liquidiser.
Alternately add a tablespoon of oil and then a tablespoon of cheese until it is blended together.
Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Serve through hot pasta, with salad from your garden, including lots of tomatoes. Yum!
Stats today -
Eggs produced = 11
1 dozen tomatoes £1.80
1 x Mint herb plant £0.50