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New and Unusual Basil Herbs for 2007

New and Unusual Basil Herbs for 2007
By Barbara Adams

Basil's long, intriguing history is steeped in legend and folklore. Experts disagree on its origin, but many feel it evolved in Asia and Africa. It’s thought that Alexander the Great brought it to ancient Greece around 356-323 B.C.E. From there, it may have made its way to England from India in the mid 1500s and came to the New World in the early 1600s. Grown in medieval gardens, many classic herbals have mentioned it over the years.

Basil can make a wonderful specialty herb garden or home business cash crop for teas, local gourmet restaurants, making and selling a homemade pasta sauce, or sold fresh to other "foodie" customers.

Basil is a member of the large mint family. Its botanically name is Ocimum basilicum. It was used as an embalming and preserving herb, and was found in ancient Egyptian mummies. Its embalming usage may be why it was also a symbol of mourning in Greece. There, it was called basilikon phuton, which means royal or kingly herb.

There are more than 150 known varieties. These include:

Lime-flavored basil from Thailand

Red Temple Holy Basil from India

Greek Columnar Basil that grows as a true perennial in many locations

Magic Mountain Basil with extra lovely purple flowers

Green Pepper Basil discovered in Mexico with a pronounced green pepper aroma

Basil Ararat, rarely seen heirloom

Clove Basil with an obvious clove aroma

Sacred Basil, also with a clove scent

Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil, a delicious heirloom from New Mexico

Greek Basil, grows in gardens or containers to form an almost perfect compact ball

Lettuce Leaved Green Basil with larger leaves and very good basil flavor

Napoletano Bolloso Basil, has very, very large leaves with just a hint of anise flavor

Sweet Dani Lemon Basil with very strong lemon fragrance

Mexican Cinnamon Spice Basil with a special, spicy aroma

Genovese Basil, large leaves and with a flavor many prefer over any other

Barbara Adams
Author: Micro Eco-Farming: Prospering from Backyard to Small Acreage in Partnership with the Earth (New World Publishing):

Center for the Micro Eco-Farming Movement:

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