Basil basics

Continuing the discussion from The trees they came a one by one:

Thanks Chills. The plants came in, in terrible shape as mentioned. I have Mexican, Mexican bush, African Blue, Greek Columnar, and variegated Cuban. The Cuban is in good shape!

1 Like

A few basil facts off the top of my head, slightly diluted with Zywiec beer.

Basils comprise a geologically old Genus of plants with native species and natural hybrids throughout the eastern hemisphere. Naturalized cultivars and hybrids (due to human propagation) exist throughout the entire world since the mid 1500’s. True Basils are a member of the larger mint family. Of course, there are several plants with basil in their name that otherwise have no relation to the Genus.

Although growers in non-tropical environments consider Basil an annual plant, in reality they are tropical or near-tropical perennials and bi-annuals in their original habitat. A prime example is so-called Italian Basil, which was probably first imported from the Indian Ocean island of Reunion. Greek Basil originated in Kenya and is a woody (eventually) perennial in zones 10b (or mild 10a) and above. African Blue Basil is a chance hybrid of two north African species. It is self-sterile – thank goodness, it flowers incessantly and if the seeds were fertile the plant would be on the noxious species list! It is a hardy, woody perennial in zones 10 and above. The so-called Thai basils and their derivatives (e.g., Lemon Basil) are native to the Thai peninsula and are non-woody tropical meadow biannuals.

Leaf sizes vary a lot between different species. Standard Italian Basil actually has a large leaf size in comparison to the others. If you’re planning on making Insalata Caprese, then most species won’t make it on leaf size alone.

Potency is an important aspect to consider if you plan on growing your plant for seasoning. African Blue is extremely potent - I would rate it 10x over standard Italian Basil by personal experience. A tablespoon of fresh African Blue leaves in 2 quarts of pasta is at the limit for many people.

I typically have a few varieties of Basil going at one time, but Greek Columnar basil is my favorite. It is slightly stronger than Italian, has smaller leaves, and a hint of black pepper in the taste. It is perennial in my zone – the current plant in a #12 pot is 5 years old. It rarely blooms, and when it does you can cut off the seed stalks and new non-flowering branches emerge below. As Patty might guess, I bought it in a 4-inch starter pot from Pearson’s Gardens in Vista.

Thanks for the info. Also I’m a little confused, too much sun, not used to it! The Mexican and Cuban plants are oregano no basil! Duh! I’ll comment more later, busy these last few days…

1 Like

I’m growing a number of basils to try. I do have African Blue and Greek Columnar. A few others from seed. Thanks for info on strength!
I’m also growing some unusual oreganos, which is also in the mint family, but the one I’m most interested in is Mexican oregano is not a true oregano it is a verbena (Lippia graveolens). I want to use it for Tex-Mex dishes. I have had a high interest in growing Hatch type chili peppers. I’m trying to find what works best here. Next year I’m going to try some hybrid chili plants, this year I’m growing variations of the Big Jim pepper. See what works. So far both are struggling. I’m growing Big Jim Legacy and Nu Mex Heritage Big Jim. I make green chili and red powder for red enchilada sauce. Man this is so good made fresh! I made some last year with 6-4 peppers, Wow! I want to get closer the authentic by using the Mexican oregano.
Looking further into Mexican oregano I found that regional areas in Mexico use different plants for oregano. As many as 15 different types! I could only find one other, Mexican Bush oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) Which appears to be in the mint family. I’m going to try and overwinter all of these plants. I will start numerous cuttings as backups. I have all summer to do it.

Read up on the carcinogenic properties of Verbenas. I’m not sure what the current state of research is.

All I could find is some believe it prevents cancer. Also used to make a liqueur
Found this too
“Verbena has longstanding use in herbalism and folk medicine, usually as an herbal tea. Nicholas Culpeper’s 1652 The English Physitian discusses folk uses”
It is sold as an edible herb for sure. You can buy Mexican organo too

For what it’s worth at my age I worry little about something that can give me cancer in 30 years, i won’t be here in 30 years.
I’m fairly confident is is safe, and most likely extremely healthy to consume.

Some plants are known for use in healing

Web MD makes no mention of cancer or even any known side effects.

It turns out that P. longiflora is a synonym of Poliomentha bustamenta

I’m not sure how to use that database? I do know over 15 types exist. One is
Poliomintha longiflora var. congesta and Poliomintha longiflora var. longiflora

Based on genetic data, those have been reclassified as:
Poliomintha bustamenta var. congesta
Poliomintha bustamenta var. longiflora

Speaking of references, have you seen this book:

The Encyclopedia of Herbs: A Comprehensive Reference to Herbs of Flavor and Fragrance
By Arthur O. Tucker and Thomas DeBaggio, 2009 Timber Press

No, boy if I bought that I would have herbs all over! I love trying new stuff! Thanks I may pick that up!
I like Timber press too, some good books!
On reclassification that has been happening a lot lately. I guess with our new genetic indentifying skills it is in order to do so.
I’m also growing sage, and looking to find a rosemary that will survive here. Hill Hardy is not hardy enough. I’m going to try Arp Rosemary.
So a lot of taste testing this summer!
I’m also growing Cuban Oregano. I decided to try the variegated cultivar. Said to taste same are the regular.
Coleus amboinicus var.
Here it is

Yes I’ve grown Cuban oregano. Adds an interesting flavor if you’re stewing meats with chilis, or try puréeing it with garlic for a marinade. It grows well indoors given suitable light - a perfect plant for you!

That sounds good! it all sounds good! I growing two types of garlic too. Not that many about 12 bulbs, 6 of each type. Some Idaho garlic that is hardy here, and it is, planted last fall.
I will try this for sure, thanks! I think we have a recipe section. I really don’t have any of my own except for jerk sauce. I have to write it out someday. I’m growing MOA (Minister of Agriculture) Scotch Bonnets. The official pepper of Jamaica, Ya Mon! I’ve made it with other scotch bonnets, but many are from other Caribbean countries. I’m going to be doing a lot of cooking this year!

1 Like

So in the Verbena family is Mexican Sweet Herb (Phyla dulcis) which has been correlated with thyroid cancer in laboratory rats. However, it might just be limited to that Genus, as I have not read of any cancer correlation in the main Verbena genus.

I being a retired med tech find these things interesting. Thanks for the info! My thyroid barely works now!