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Basil, purple

Common name: Purple Basil

Scientific name: Ocimum basilicum purpurescens

Family: Lamiaceae

Uses: Aromatic, cosmetic, culinary, medicinal.Culinary uses for flavoring include the fresh leaves which are used in tomato sauces, to make pesto sauce. It is used in Italian, Mediterranean, and Thai cooking and is good with veal, lamb, fish, poultry, white beans, pasta, rice, tomatoes, cheese, and eggs. Purple basil is also excellent used in vinegar and as a garnish. It is aromatic and is used for drying and for fragrance in pot-pourris and sachets. Cosmetic uses are in herbal bath mixtures and for bringing luster to the hair. Basil can be grown in containers and makes an excellent ornamental plant in the landscape. It is reported to have some medicinal qualities.

History Breeding of basil has led to many hybrids including purple varieties such as Purple Ruffles, Opal and Rubin. The name comes from the Greek word "basileus" meaning king. Once the fear of the herb past, it was praised more than a king.

Description: Annual with leafy stems and thin branchy roots. Flowers are two-lipped, 1/2" long, lavender and grow in racemes at top of stems. Leaves are opposite, ovate with an entire margin. They are also 2-3 inches long, dark maroon-purple and shiny. Fruit are tiny, dark brown seeds.

Plant type: Annual

Hardiness: Hardiness zone 4-10.

Height: 12-24 inches

Width: 12 inches

Light: Full sun

Soil: rich, moist, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5-7.5

Pests:

Disease: Few, seedlings are prone to damping off.

Cultivation: seedlings are slow growing and delicate. Start indoors in peat pots to minimize disturbance.

Companion planting: Improves growth and flavor of asparagus, tomatoes and most vegetables. Do not plant Basil with cabbage or snap beans.

Propagation: Seed, cuttings.

Flowering period: July to August

Flower color: lavender

Harvesting: Harvest in early Autumn before the cold weather arrives and the leaves turn limp and yellow. Cut the long, leafy stalks for drying just before the plant comes into flower. Spread them out in a shady place or wire mesh to encourage quick drying. Do not hang in bunches as the leaves dry to slowly and can mold. Oven drying is not advised, as the leaves scorch. Basil can be frozen--chop fresh into ice cube trays and add a small amount of water.

Garden notes: