The many-faced basil - in the kitchen, in the flower garden and in the medicine cabinet
Basil - a wonderful universal seasoning for meat, fish, soups and fresh salads - is well known to all lovers of Caucasian and Italian cuisine. However, upon closer inspection, basil is surprisingly versatile. For several seasons, our family has enjoyed drinking fragrant basil tea. Let's see how diverse the basil is, and find out what opportunities this familiar southern spice hides.
Why do we love basil?
Latin name Basilica Ocimum basilicumthat translates as "Fragrant basil". Indeed, the main value of spice is precisely its unique recognizable aroma. The color palette of a leaf of a leaf of a basil is not rich. As a rule, its foliage can have a light green or saturated dark purple color. The really wide variety is the smell of the plant.
Essential oil containing vitamins (B, C, PP, K), volatile and tannins makes all parts of basil fragrant. The aroma exhausted by the plant is so strong that my family members unmistakably learn about its collection in any corner of the garden. If desired, basil can replace many popular spicy herbs, because in a wide range of varieties and varieties, in addition to the traditional, you can find anise, clove, vanilla and even menthol aroma.
Note: the lowest bushes (20 centimeters) have varieties spherical basilica with fine foliage (0.5-1.5 centimeters). A basil "Russian size" grows above 40 centimeters in height, and differs in absolutely gigantic leaves almost from the palm of an adult (14 centimeters).
The basil in the garden - tea with lemon in a cup
For summer refreshing teas, our family enjoys special popularity lemon basil. Such a drink cannot fail to fall in love with a bright rich citrus flavor, in comparison with which the usual lemon tea will fade.
On sale seeds of such basil can be found under the name "Citric", "Lemon Aroma", Limoncello, "Lemon Slices" etc. The name may vary depending on the seed producers, but usually the same basil with citrus flavor and aroma is hidden under them. In addition, basil is also found. "Lime", similar in taste to lemon, but with a more pronounced bitterness.
In search of the best tea, we also tasted caramel basil, "mint", "vanilla" and Cinnamon. I can’t say that the taste of these varieties is completely identical to caramel, mint and cinnamon, however, certain notes of the mentioned spices in it are easily perceptible. Such “sweet” basilicas are best suited for fruit salads, but drinks from them are also good, especially in combination with lemon basil.
Making tea from basil will not take much time. To do this, I usually collect the tops of young shoots, preventing them from blooming. This method also provokes an increase in the branching of bushes, which are very quickly overgrown with new stepsons. I put 3-5 shoots with four leaves on a mug, pour boiling water. After 5 minutes, the drink becomes tasty and aromatic, if desired, add sugar to taste.
How to dry basil for tea?
In the country, we enjoy drinking our own “tea with lemon” all summer. But magic grass can also be prepared for the winter. Cutting spices for drying is best done before flowering, since the leaves and young shoots during this period are most fragrant.
Dried basil, like any other spicy herbs (peppermint, lemon balm), in a dry room without direct sunlight in suspension, or spread out in a thin layer on fabric or paper. Dried basil does not lose its taste and aroma for several years, but, according to my observations, the taste of such tea is still somewhat inferior to fresh.
Important! Despite the pleasant taste and tonic effect, basil tea should be consumed very moderately! The foliage of this spice contains a small amount of mercury compounds, which can accumulate over time in the body.
Specialists in the field of traditional medicine advise in the case of daily tea consumption to take a drink for no more than three weeks, and then arrange a week-long respite. It is advisable not to drink it more than once a day and not to make the drink too strong. For children under 7 years old, it is also better not to offer such tea. (About other contraindications can be read below).
In order to avoid negative effects, we prefer to use basil gulls not every day, but alternate it with drinks with mint and lemon balm.
Basil in the flowerbed
I would like to single out some varieties of basil not only for aroma, but also for high decorative qualities. Spherical basil, having a strong aroma with characteristic mulled wine tones, has very fine dense foliage. This plant forms incredibly dense pretty bumps and can be used in landscaping in combination with low annuals, resembling boxwood from afar.
Miniature varieties of basil can be found under the names: "Dwarf", "Greek", "Perfume" other. The maximum height of the mini-basil is 20-35 centimeters in diameter and at the same time it is easy to shape and cut. This seasoning can be easily grown in a pot on the kitchen windowsill or on the balcony.
But it’s even more interesting to compose an original flower composition with his participation, having landed spice next to annuals with flowers of bright colors - snapdragon, petunia, caliberhoa, nemesia, verbena and others. On the flowerbed, dwarf basil can serve as the original frame of the flower garden.
Not many people perceive ordinary purple basil as an ornamental plant, but for me its dark purple foliage seems to be no less spectacular accent in the flower garden than everyone's favorite coleus. Moreover, the basilica "God himself commanded" to be a "real" flower. After all, he, like coleus, sage, lavender and other popular flowers, belongs to the lipaceous family, which is distinguished by a pretty two-lipped flower shape.
If the basil is allowed to bloom, then over its expressive purple foliage I will rise slender spike-shaped inflorescences with lilac flowers, contrasting with dark stems and foliage. Such a basil perfectly copes with the role of a vertical accent in flower beds and balcony compositions, and is especially organic in mixborders of a natural style or tea gardens with other herbs.
Usually small flowers of this spice do not attract much attention, but it turns out that there is one unusual variety in basil - The Thai Queen, which, indeed, can be called flowering. In addition to the main purpose as a spice, this variety is initially considered decorative and is recommended for planting on flower beds.
Unlike other varieties of basil, the “Queen of Thailand” forms not erect, but flattened dense inflorescences, consisting of many small two-lipped flowers of lilac color. The dark purple tops of the shoots, which stand out against the backdrop of green foliage, betray additional decorativeness to the plant.
This basil is quite powerful and forms high (up to 50 centimeters) wide bushes that independently branch well. In addition to the decorative function, the Thai Queen Basil also fulfills its main function as a spicy-aromatic plant, and I enjoy using its leaves as tea.
To some, the smell of this basil seems slightly pepper, but, in my opinion, the drink from the Thai Queen Basil has a recognizable cinnamon flavor and is no less pleasant to drink than Lemon Flavor.
Basil in the medicine cabinet
In folk medicine, basil is used to treat many diseases of the cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, eyes. In addition, basil is considered useful for atherosclerosis, hemorrhoids, cystitis, arthritis, and even for the prevention of cancer.
Tea from basil is not only incredibly tasty, but also well replenishes strength after significant physical exertion and improves the psycho-emotional state of a person, increases tone, strengthens the nervous system, improves sleep and reduces anxiety.
The essential oils, vitamins, and minerals found in basil leaves make the spice useful for colds. It is believed that the use of basil can strengthen the immune system and effectively fight against staphylococcus, enterococcus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other pathogenic bacteria.
In the cold season, during the cold, you can use dry basil leaves. To make a healthy drink, you need one teaspoon of dry grass per glass of boiling water. To enhance the effect, add a little black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, as well as honey or sugar to taste to the basil. Insist tea with spices for 7-10 minutes.
With sore throat and other sore throats, gargling with a decoction of basil contributes to a speedy recovery. Outwardly, basil is also used for washing the eyes in order to eliminate gum and redness.
Spice is no less popular in cosmetology. Fresh basil juice is spotted on acne with problem skin. And for aging skin, vitaminizing compresses masks are suitable, which help increase skin tone. For this purpose, fresh basil leaves are turned into gruel, mixing the mass with a small amount of water (to increase the nutritional value, you can also add egg and honey to the mask). The mask is kept on the skin for 10-15 minutes, after which it is washed off with water.
No less useful is a decoction of basil for hair. After washing, rinse the head with the infusion prepared according to the following recipe: 2-3 tablespoons of chopped dry basil leaves are poured with one liter of hot water, insist 40-50 minutes, filter and rinse the hair.
Note: Despite the many advantages of basil, it is impossible to abuse this spice in cooking and during treatment without consulting a doctor, since this is, first of all, a medicinal plant that affects the entire body.
With a tendency to thrombosis, it is important to consider that basil increases blood coagulation. In this regard, it can also not be used after recently suffered heart attacks and strokes. Also, a drink from basil is strictly contraindicated for pregnant women and people suffering from epilepsy.
Planting and caring for the basil
Growing basil from seeds is no problem. Despite the fact that the plant is thermophilic, it is possible to sow directly into the open ground when the threat of frost passes. Seedlings develop quickly enough, therefore, with the seedling method of growing, fragrant greens can be obtained by July.
I prefer to grow seedlings. To do this, sow basil seeds in the room in mid-late April in small containers. For uniform sowing, medium-sized seeds are best mixed with sand. But even if the seedlings are thickened, I usually do not spend extra dives in separate cups, and at the end of May I plant them immediately in bunches of soil.
With regular watering, young plants take root easily and painlessly. On moderately fertile soils, basil does not require any additional top dressing. Normal care - weeding and watering in a dry time. The plant is quite drought tolerant and can survive a hot week without watering only on weekends, so it is well suited for working summer residents.
If you provide the basil with a moist, sunny place, it will quickly gain weight and become suitable for the preparation of salads and tea drinks. To increase the shoot formation, it is advisable to pinch the bushes regularly. But with us this happens naturally when collecting raw materials for tea.
For the preparation of the drink, it is best to use the tops of young shoots, which, among other things, prevents flowering. And, as you know, spicy plants have a maximum concentration of essential oils before blooming profusely.
Basil does not tolerate even light frosts, so it is very important to have time to prepare raw materials for the winter before the onset of cold weather.