The Basil Plant
Including The Herb's Origins

The basil plant is also known as Sweet Basil, athough there are over 40 different varieties.  Although we'll mainly look at Sweet Basil here, we'll also discuss a few of the other interesting species too. 

Picture of Basil

The Latin name for Sweet basil is Ocimum basilicum. It is an annual aromatic herb which generally grows between 40 to 60 centimeters (1 ft 3 to 2 feet) high.

The leaves, which reach a size of 2 to 3 centimeters, are oval shaped, with a silky texture.  They are light or dark green, although certain varieties have purple or crimson leaves.  The stems are squareish.  The fragrant flowers, are small and white, whilst the fine seeds are black and rectangular in shape.

Basil is part of the Lamiacea (also known as Labatae) family of plants.  It is grown as an aromatic and culinary, plant as well as for its attractive appearance.  Its aromatic perfume is very similar to the perfume given off by cloves.

Basil has also been fed to cattle as a purgative, and the latin name Ocimum indicates the way that basil quickens the action of the bowels of cattle.  This latin word ocimum, comes from the Greek word ocheos, which signifies to come quickly.  The name Basil originates from the Greek word, basilikos, which means royally, and is so-named because of the spicy, noble smell.  In india, Basil is known as Tulsi or Toolsee.

Origins of Basil and where it is found

Basil was probably originally a native plant from Iran or India, although there are some indications that it may have come from the African Continent.  It arrived in Europe via the Middle East in Italy.  After this it made its way to the south of France in 15th century, then on to England in the 17th century. It then travelled across the Atlantic to America with the first immigrants.  Today, basil plants are particularly found near Italy, and also in France, Morocco and Egypt. There is a similarly large a proliferation of Basil in Asia, central and South America. In the USA the largest quantities are cultivated in the State of California.

Cooking Basil and Culinary Uses
Growing Basil
History of Basil
Health benefits of Basil
Different Species of Basil

Discover more about Herb Gardening and find out what Herbs are.

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