Basil Facts

Basil Facts
Basil is herbaceous plant that belongs to mint family (Lamiaceae). It originates from India, where people use it as spice and as medicine at least 5000 years. Basil can be found all over the world today. It prefers light soil and high temperatures for successful growth (it does not tolerate frost).There are over 160 varieties of basil that differ in size and color of the leaves and flowers and chemical composition which determines taste of the plant. Besides being popular as spice, basil contains essential oils which are used in medicine and chemical industry. Basil is also often cultivated for ornamental purposes.
Interesting Basil Facts:
Depending on the variety, basil can grow 12 to 51 inches in height.
Basil has light green, silky leaves that are oval in shape. Leaves are oppositely arranged on the stem. Some varieties of basil have purple leaves.
Basil develops miniature flowers that appear in spikes on top of a plant. They can be white, pinkish or mauve in color.
Flowers are pollinated by insects. After successful pollination, each flower turns into dry fruit called achene.
Basil can be propagated via seed and plant cuttings.
Flower and leaves are edible, but leaves are more often in use. Leaves are rich in essential oils which are responsible for the specific flavor of the plant. When flowers appear on the plant, stem becomes rough and production of essential oils ceases. Because of that, people often remove flower buds to prolong lifespan and freshness of the leaves.
Each type of basil has unique aroma. Sweet basil has clove-like aroma, lemon basil has lemony taste while cinnamon basil has sweet, cinnamon-like aroma.
Besides its aroma, basil has high nutritional value. Basil is rich source of vitamins A, B6, C and K and minerals such as iron, manganese and magnesium.
Basil can be used fresh or in a dry form. It is especially important part of Italian cuisine. Most people use basil for dishes made of tomato, pesto, soups, salads and dishes made of chicken meat.
Even though basil is mostly used for the preparation of salty dishes, fresh leaves can be used as ingredient for the preparation of chocolate and ice-creams in some parts of the world.
Basil is used in folk medicine (usually in the form of tea) for treatment of constipation, flatulence, stomach cramps, anxiety, and depression.
Latest studies revealed that basil has antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant properties and that it may be useful in cancer treatment.
Basil contains chemicals which repel insects. Certain experiments showed that basil is toxic for mosquitoes.
Basil is used for the preparation of holy water in orthodox churches in Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia and Serbia.
Basil is annual plant which means that it finishes its life cycle in one year.

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