Holy Moly! Or is it Holy Basil?

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Lime Basil and Holy Basil in August


It’s almost Labor Day and I’ve enjoyed basil all summer long! In fact, I really can’t eat all of the basil I grew this year! And, it seems like new flowers pop out overnight. I’ve started to give up and allow some of my basil plants to flower since the tiny blooms attract so many good insects, butterflies, bees, and even hummingbirds! In the above picture, you’ll see my lime basil in full bloom. If you want to save basil seeds, you really need to plant the different varieties as far apart as possible to avoid cross pollination. Or, just let one plant go to seed and keep flowers off all of the others. 


So, what’s the big deal about letting basil (and other herbs) bloom? Once they begin to flower, they also begin to lose their flavor. But, even if some of the stems have flowered, you can cut them back (I will usually cut off about half the stem), and the new shoots will once again be full of flavor. 


I typically pinch off the tips of the new growth to use for cooking, while I trim back some of the flowering stems, thereby creating an alternating system of pretty flowers and good tasting leaves. It’s really not complicated and happens naturally since I simply can’t keep up!


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Sweet Basil and Purple Basil - Running Out of Room


You’ll want to stop pinching or trimming your herbs about 2 weeks before the really cold weather comes in because the tender new shoots will be easily damaged by frost and could compromise the ability of the herb to over-winter. That applies more to hardy herbs like thyme, oregano, rosemary, and lavender. 


Here in North Carolina, and in most places in the US, basil plants will die off in the winter. And, they’ll die once they go to seed too. But that’s ok! They’re very easy to grow, so you can start over next year. They’ll grow in just about any kind of soil, but they prefer lots of sun, moisture and plenty of room!


Use basil liberally in the kitchen. Not only is it delicious, but it’s packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties. 


Medicinally speaking, holy basil, also called “tulsi” and served as tea in India, has perhaps the longest history. You’ll find it in Ayurvedic medicine, as well as ancient Greek and Roman texts. It’s used for colds and flu, general immune system support, arthritis, to fight bacterial infections, and even as a poultice for ringworm due to its anti-fungal properties. It has been shown in studies to protect the liver, reduce cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels, fight ulcers, and improve memory.


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My Holy Basil Plant in Early Summer


Herbalists most often recommend holy basil for the relief of stress and anxiety, and to help with sleep. If the worries of the day are keeping you up, try a cup of tulsi tea before bed. It’s caffeine-free!


In India, holy basil is known as the queen of herbs. In Europe, sweet basil is called the king of herbs. Clearly, basil is a royal family and worthy to be a planted in your garden. Read more about the medicinal properties of sweet basil in a previous post here


Bobbi Mullins, August 28, 2014


References


Holy Basil: Relieve Anxiety and Stress Naturally. Found at http://www.medicinehunter.com/holy-basil

Happiness Herbs. Gaia Herbs Professional Solutions. Webinar by Lise Alschuler, ND. 

Dave’s Garden, Get the Most From Your Herbs by Jill M. Nicolaus. August 2014. Found at http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/106/

What is Basil Good For? Dr. Mercola. Found at http://foodfacts.mercola.com/basil.html.

© Bobbi Mullins 2011, All rights reserved. FOOD FITNESS FAITH™